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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Are you receiving me? Aspergers and information gaps

Ethan has this infuriating trait. I don't know whether it's to do with Aspergers or whether it's just Ethan - maybe one of you readers can enlighten me? I suspect it's the former.
When he's verbally relaying something, he misses out big chunks of information - often the most crucial parts - without which his sentence doesn't make sense. For example, he'll come in from work with two boxes of biscuits and, when quizzed about their origin, will tell me that 50 per cent of the staff are couples. To which I'll reply "Which staff and why have they given you biscuits?" He'll look at me, brow furrowed in incomprehension and tell me "the staff at the biscuit factory." When I point out that he didn't mention he'd been to a biscuit factory, he'll swear that he did. The more I beg to differ, the more irritated he'll become.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were chatting with friends, he bought up the ice-bucket challenge. As is Ethan's trademark, he was moaning: criticising how many people were doing it, why they were doing it (just for show, according to Ethan), that celebrities were using it as a way to bolster support, etc, etc. I interrupted his rant to ask what the challenge actually was. Ethan, seeming annoyed by my interruption, dismissively told me, "you're meant to donate to a charity to do it" before launching back into his tirade. I persisted: "But what actually is it? What do you do?" "It's a challenge. People nominate you to do it," replied Ethan. (I think that herein lies the source of Ethan's problem with it - no-one had nominated him and no-one is likely to). I screeched with frustration: "What do you get nominated to do????"  At this point, a friend stepped in before I shattered, through sheer stress and strain, into a million tiny pieces, and explained that you get ice cold water thrown all over you. Ethan looked as exasperated with me as I felt with him. "That's why it's called the ice-bucket challenge," he said.

I don't know what causes it. My theory is that he's so focused on the particular point he's wanting to make, that he bypasses all additional information - however vital. And that if you ask a question that doesn't relate to what his mind's focussing on, his mind will translate it into something that does require the response he wants to make! Either that or, to him, the basic information is so, well, basic that, subconsciously, it doesn't even warrant needing to be said. I think that sometimes he'll forget that you, as the listener, don't have the basic framework of information that he is beginning his sentence from. In his mind, his thoughts have moved beyond paddling in the shallows to, by the time he articulates verbally, swimming in the deep sea - meanwhile you are still sunbathing on the beach!

3 comments:

  1. I think it's the Aspergers Laura, Mr H does the same. When working from home, he will march up the garden to tell me that "@@@@@@@ said @@@@ but that it is rubbish and @@@@@@@@ needs to happen first, before the system can work properly" I have no idea what he's talking about, but if I try to elucidate, he insists that he has told me the whole story. I agree with your idea that he's so focussed on telling the outcome of the story, that he misses huge chunks out of the tale. Mr H also insists that I haven't listened properly, rather than him not having told the tale properly. Frustrating or what?
    Hannah x

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  2. My husband does the same. It's as though he expects me to be telepathic. Hecwill also say he's told me things that he hasn't and he seems to resent having to explain anything if I ask a question. My theory is that he finds talking so effortful that he says as little as possible and leaves out all the detail.

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  3. Meant to say, I love the "paddling in the shallows / swimming in deep water / sunbathing on the beach" analogy. Sums it up very well!
    Hannah x

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