March 21, 2019

“Let me finish!”

I hear this a lot from autistics, whenever an interruption threatens to derail our train of thought.

I hear it a lot from non-autistics too, but the tone is very different.

Autistics say it out of desperation, begging for permission to rescue the ideas quickly slipping from our minds.

Non-autistics, on the other hand, often say it to me out of annoyance, followed by, “Everything will make sense in a minute if you just keep listening” – as if my interjection were a sign of childlike impatience.

It isn’t impatience. It’s genuine confusion. I’m missing some key info to put everything else into context. Letting them finish means memorizing the nonsensical sounds, then replaying them back to myself once I have the key to unlock their meaning.

So, what should we do? Give autistics the right to finish, and withhold that right from everyone else?

No, just be mindful that any interruption may result in distress, and any dismissed interruption may result in confusion – regardless of neurotype.

Sometimes it’s impossible to make everyone happy. One person’s needs may directly contradict another’s. But at least we can grow to recognize each other’s needs in the first place.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.