My Autism Spectrum Disorder (A personal guide)
The notorious ‘do not disturb’ (and infamous irritability about it).
In order to complete a task, depending on the level of focus, I genuinely do require no interruptions. This drawback is often portrayed in media as a comical grouchiness, in some instances as low level tyranny. I understand that it might look from the outside, perhaps like selfish behaviour. For me, it is not trivial. Disruptions can cause a sort of physical pain, or sudden ‘blindness’ of some senses. I have mentioned how I must force my senses into alignment one by one, depending what’s required. This means that I am using almost exclusively those senses, shutting out those not required.
Disruptions involuntarily switch my conscious alignment of my senses into a new arrangement, focusing on the interruption. For example if I’m sketching a design and there is anything from a sudden loud noise, a new continuous or ongoing pervasive noise, to someone turning on a light in an adjacent room, my attention is switched. My perception rapidly switches from forcing my eyes and my hand to move in coordination, forcing my eyes to disregard the peripheral information, then suddenly to my ears, or my peripheral. I essentially become blind to the senses I was employing to complete my task. While this for me is vastly, enormously, more sensitive than that of someone not on the spectrum (you will all have experienced this at some point or another, with varying levels of intensity, perhaps when trying to immerse yourself in a movie or a book - then the phone rings, someone knocks at your door, roadworks start right outside of your window) I believe I am fortunate that it is an area of Autism for me that is far more mild than that of those in the ‘lower functioning’ end of the spectrum. However, it is serious. It can be physical painful, as if suddenly someone blasts and air-horn in your ear. That sense was being consciously disregarded - which is difficult, to conserve focus on another sense. For it to be suddenly re-engaged, for information to flood in past that, is at best, extremely startling. I then actually need to go and recover. I may not be able to regain my focus for my task for some time, I have even (rarely, thank goodness) experienced this for days. I can only describe it further as a “tearing” sensation in my brain, like that of ripping calico. It is a sensation that is almost audio, but also physical.
I don’t actually want to act like a spoiled little princess, my very real discomfort in this is not a choice. You wouldn’t expect somebody to endure real -yet avoidable - pain in order to work, when they could work without pain, and I don’t think it’s appropriate that I should.