So I learned something this week… I thought I had learned to get over this issue.. and maybe I have in some contexts… but it became clear to me over the week.
This week was ASAN’s ACI Summer Leadership Academy. I was able to meet some wonderful new rising leaders in the Autistic community. It was great, even if I’m overly tired here at the end and didn’t make it the whole way through without falling apart once. Though, it was expected that it’d happen once because you can’t be “ON” all day every day for over a week. So that was ok even if scary.
But what I was shocked to find out is that I’m still unable to initiate conversations. I still don’t know how to even in a group of Autistics. Here in a welcoming environment, I was unable to go up and start a conversation. Or even join in a conversation. It was just really shocking. I don’t know if anyone noticed I couldn’t do it either. It’s not that I didn’t talk. But when I did, I had cues to do so. I knew how to go introduce myself to any of the speakers I hadn’t already know. Approach and greet the ones I did know. I knew how to greet the participants who had varying levels of conversation skills, some of which matched mine and others who far exceeded mine. And it was just fine.
I did my best and I got to talk about a lot of great things when there was a moment that I knew to speak and how to speak and so forth. One on ones were great. Two on ones were alright. And even when there were multiple people, as long as I started one-on-one and two-on-one, I was able to keep up. But anything more than that, I was pretty lost. It was even hard to do so amongst the people here I considered friends. It wasn’t their fault for not noticing either, because usually, I’m ok. But something about the high stress (not negative stress, but being “ON” for so many hours, it’s bound to be stressful), I couldn’t even get it going then.
I suspect that I need to go back to using the badge system more regularly at these sorts of things. I just hope that people keep remembering that GREEN means that I have a hard time initiating. It seems to have morphed into “It’s ok to talk to me.” Eventually, I’ll get it down how to do these things… or at least, I’ll be able to express that I have the problem enough for people to approach me.