How Do I Say “My Brain Is Not Like Yours”?
I’m not neurotypical.
Requesting accommodation for this is hard, both because of the nature of my neuroatypicality, and because of the structure of the society in which I live. Under this structure, if I can pass for neurotypical, I will, because it’s easier and more convenient. As soon as I disclose my situation to request accommodation, I open the floodgates. My standing in a group of people instantly shifts, and I find myself on unstable ground. A frustrating situation for anyone, but especially for me, because I need things to be rigid. I need clear rules and boundaries and I need to understand where I am. I need order.
How do I say “my brain is not like yours”?
How do I explain to someone that my behavior may sometimes seem peculiar, erratic, or irrational, but it’s not? It’s just that this is the way in which my brain works.
How do I explain to someone that I really do need things ordered and presented in a particular way, or I get upset? How do I explain that my upset, my emotion, is valid because I am experiencing it? How do I say that it’s not funny to deliberately disrupt the order of things to trip me up, to change things around on me without telling me, to assume that I will be ok with something without checking first? How do I explain that my need for control stems from my need for order, for a perfect understanding?
How do I explain to someone that sometimes I do not understand what is being said or written, even though I appear verbally fluent (and am often accused of being verbose)? How do I explain that sometimes I do not comprehend, read, or parse something correctly, and that therefore, my response may seem out of line, but it’s really because I didn’t understand? How can I explain that not understanding does not mean that I not intelligent, does not mean that I don’t understand when people are talking about me, does not mean that I am not capable of intellectual rigor, does not mean that I do not experience hurt and other emotions when people marginalize me?
How do I explain that when I get angry or flustered, I start to cry, and that it infuriates me, and that having attention drawn to it is not helpful? How do I explain that I often become verbose when I am nervous or upset, that I am not talking to dominate a conversation, but because I feel threatened or nervous or unsure and so I try to occupy the space around me with words to protect myself?
How do I explain that when I ask someone to repeat or rephrase something, I am not being pedantic, I am asking because I do not understand. Because my brain, it is not like yours. And that means that sometimes I don’t understand the things that your brain says. It doesn’t mean that your brain is lacking in intelligence or the ability to communicate, it just means that my brain doesn’t understand the modes of communication your brain uses.
How do I explain that I am not socially awkward or lacking in social grace, but incapable of reading people emotionally? How do I explain that I don’t mean to make awkward or offensive statements, that I don’t mean to appear to be talking out of context, that I don’t understand the subtle nuances of situations? How do I explain that I need rigid rules of social order because I am familiar and safe within them, and they allow me to feel more confident?
How do I explain that sometimes I do not know what to say, so I stay silent, but I am thinking about what is being said?
How do I explain that I often think about multiple things at once, and that sometimes I get behind on the thread of conversation, so I say something about something that happened 10 minutes ago? How do I explain that this is just the way my brain works?
How do I explain that I really do need people to be clear with me, to set out boundaries, to enforce them? Because I don’t understand boundaries. I don’t even understand my own boundaries, which means that I cannot navigate the boundaries of others. I will step over boundaries not because I am rude, or thoughtless, or heartless, but because I don’t realize that they are there.
How do I explain that I am neuroatypical, and that I deserve the right to accommodation?