You know how your iPhone has an auto-correct button, and sometimes it works and sometimes it fails miserably? (Mind you, I don’t really know this. I have a very unsophisticated mobile.) Well, oddly, that is exactly the experience of an Aspie. Aspies notice many things an NTs brain seamlessly autocorrects, without ever reaching a level of consciousness or concern. But, they don’t just notice, they are impacted by these seemingly smaller differences that, in their mind, appears zeppelin-like. Take Cody, for instance, it’s not uncommon for him to start 99.9% of his sentences with, “Well, actually….” or “You mean….” or “That’s wrong….” or some other permutation of “You” + “Incorrect” + Grammar/Fact/Punctuation. These are the good moments, really, because there are times when he is stuck in thought, unable to think, act, move due to the processing of some inconsistency in his brain. Cody and I have spent countless hours developing ways for him to: 1. Not make these comments, or 2. Offer these comments more appropriately. We have spent more time, though, discussing impact — why these comments negatively impact his conversational partner despite his intentions to be helpful. Helpful. It is not uncommon for Cody to offer, “I wouldn’t want them to think that. If they did, they could get it wrong on the test. Or, they could share it with someone else who could believe them.” Auto-corrections to divert catastrophic outcomes.
There is an automatic response, a guttural reaction to his corrections — a sense of rudeness at best, egocentricism and narcissism at worst but more typically. Really, these are all synonyms for the omnipresent deficit of perspective-taking, the ability to understand the ways in which our thoughts and actions impact the thoughts and feelings of others. So, there is it, right — remedy the perspective-taking, build the alternative skills, watch the correcting reduce, and the misunderstandings fade away. If you read my blog with any regularity, you have a hunch I dislike and distrust this conclusion.
If we really understand and respect the rationale for the hyper-correctness — beyond the literalism, the rule-following — we see that there is an on-going search for meaning. Inconsistencies alter the very fabric of what a situation, statement, interaction mean. NTs look for inconsistencies to place a judgment, to push that inconsistency back into the hole where it belongs, to belittle it, to ostracize it, to make it change. (Mind you, not every NT is as pejorative as this portrayal.) Aspies are different. They look for differences to learn, to assimilate, to expand their understanding of a situation. There is an inherent irony that they often utter their sightings, usually for further clarification, only to turn the focus on them. NTs quietly stare, ruminate, and escape the label of impropriety. But our thoughts, our reasons for spotting the differences we see are far less altruistic than the Aspie who seeks not to judge, but to learn.