As a person with Asperger’s, I have discovered that no matter how hard I try to be courteous and polite, sometimes I say things that sound tactless without knowing it. Whenever I tripped, I would be acutely embarrassed and withdraw as a defense mechanism. This was often mistaken for indifference or insensitivity, making the situation worse. Society places a high value on human interactions and the autistic often fail because those on the spectrum lack, what I call, social improvisation.
Conversation is like jazz, someone takes a theme and passes it to another, who changes it and passes it back. The autistic can imitate themes but not grasp the nuances or their proper use. It’s frustrating for someone who only knows three chords and two songs. They are repeated without variation as a result, introductions became stilted, conversation focuses on a narrow subject, body language is misinterpreted. Close friends and family accept my limited repertoire. with kindness and understanding but encountering strangers is fraught with anxiety. Do I know their music?
The tone deafness of autistics comes from a lack of mirror neurons that allow one to learn and retain information.
After years of walking through this social mine field, I resigned myself to being shut out of conversations because I was comparing myself by neuronormal standards and failing. As I looked closer into this analogy, I discovered those with ASD know more than three chords, in fact, our internal music is vast but fundamentally different from others because of the way our brains are wired.
An extreme example can be seen in synesthesia, where the senses blend. Colors have sound or names have taste. Until recently scientists scoffed at such claims but now see it as a legitimate phenomenon occasionally found in those on the spectrum. The discovery of savant skills are the new and unknown pathways of the brain.
Bach was famous for using staid old musical forms to weave new intricate melodies. Jackson Pollock dripped paint on canvas in patterns so complex, computers using advanced algorithms are needed to tell the real from the fakes.
How easy it is for me to separate each orchestral part of Bach’s Toccata and fugue in D as seen in Fantasia. One long look at Jacksons splotches and I can see the fractals buried in the color scheme but when talking to people, I can’t tell whether I made a clever remark or insulted someone.
Those on the spectrum may suck at the daily songs of conversations but we excel at seeing the beautiful, complex world around us.