June 20, 2019

The gym class instructor pauses after explaining a move. “Is anyone confused?” he asks.

Silence all around. He turns to me. “Are you sure? You’re staring at me with such intensity!”

I’m instantly reminded of Jane Eyre, my favorite Victorian heroine, “who always looked as if she were watching everybody, and scheming plots underhand.”

Without missing a beat, I state, “That’s just who I am.”

The class laughs warmly, as if I’ve said something clever, or at least unexpected. I guess no one expects identity as a reason for behavior.

But it is. Autism deepens my focus on listening, processing, and analyzing – at the expense of calculating how much eye contact is normal.

Jane Eyre taught me that it’s okay if people misinterpret my face. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with me – it just means they don’t speak my language.

Little by little, I’m learning how to translate.

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.