So I had a situation the other day in a virtual meeting of people I volunteer with. I was having a hard time understanding one of my new colleagues, so I said to her as mildly and kindly as I knew how, “I’m having difficulty following you, and I’m sure that’s not your fault. I am autistic and for me that means having a very hard time reading between lines. I wonder if you could try to spell out your position more explicitly?”

Her immediate response was, “You can’t be autistic! You are so articulate!” She wasn’t trying to be unkind. She thought she was complimenting me.

I didn’t feel like putting in all the work to explain that I am articulate because of how my brain works. That it’s a defense mechanism I use because of my frequent difficulty understanding other people.

So I just asked her to please believe me.

That went okay, but not great. I don’t think she did believe me. I think she thought I was attacking her. Fortunately, some other members of the group chimed in to back me up, but my successful masking definitely worked against me in that setting.

I really do have profound communication problems sometimes, and asking for accommodations is very hard and often not very successful.