Have You Heard About This Already?: On Autism and BioFeedback

Being on the autism spectrum, one of my most consistent struggles has been providing appropriate biofeedback. It’s something that does not come easily or naturally, and so often leads to misunderstandings.

When I was in public school, I was pretty quiet–more out of deep anxiety than anything else. When people would say “Hi” to me in the hall I would try to say “Hi” back–but due to a pretty high anxiety level it would come out so quietly that most people didn’t hear it. Since I also hadn’t quite mastered the art of smiling back to acknowledge folks, this led to many people wondering why I was so rude, aloof, etc.

In university, I got better at this aspect of things at least–but new problems presented themselves. One of the ones most pertinent was that I didn’t always show I was listening. I would simply quietly listen until there was a time for me to speak–but my face was kept expressionless, I didn’t nod or make noises of affirmation, and eye contact was always a struggle. So people often didn’t feel like I was really listening to them.

I’ve since gotten much better at presenting physical signs of affirmation and engaging more in the conversation–but now I’ll far too often get asked “Have you hear about this already?” or “Do you know about this already?” when my signs of affirmation apparently exceed the threshold of what is appropriate for merely listening. I think there’s a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I know a little about a lot of things–as such I often have enough foundation to follow what people are talking about regardless of the topic–often the physical signs of affirmation reach excessive levels because I get excited about the more advanced knowledge they are demonstrating of a topic I have a fairly basic knowledge of. Secondly is when the person talking is clearly enthusiastic about what they are talking about, and I get caught up in their excitement. Third is also when the person is talking but they are a person who is generally more shy and timid and so I want to encourage them–and so end up being a little overenthusiastic in the that encouragement.

Now, generally I’m happier with where things are now than where they were as far as presenting appropriate biofeedback goes, but it is rather annoying personally that the “happy medium” remains elusive.

Published by Devin Hogg

My name is Devin Hogg. I was born and raised in Carnarvon, Ontario, Canada. I moved to Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 2009 for university and lived here ever since. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching TV and movies, going on long walks, swimming, and practicing Chen style Tai Chi. I love to write poetry and blog regularly about topics such as mental health, sci-fi/fantasy series, faith, sexuality, and politics.

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