March 2, 2023

I once posted about my zero-shame policy as a former teacher. Since making that post, I’ve realized another reason why it matters.

I have a lot of trouble – both cognitive strain and emotional stress – in conversations where my questions aren’t answered immediately, only at the end of a long backstory.

It’s not impatience. It’s school trauma.

I feel like I need to evaluate every word of the story for the hidden answer that I’m supposed to infer – because if I miss it, and need to ask again, they might react like my worst teachers.

Those teachers used to say, “No, I will not answer your question. I answered it already, and you weren’t listening.”

I was listening, though. I heard everything they said, and none of it directly answered my question.

Indirectly, yes. But not directly. I had to piece the information together like a detective. If I couldn’t, that made me a bad listener.

When a person is able to give me the short answer before the long answer, then I can listen to the long answer without feeling on edge. That’s usually what I try to advocate for.

But sometimes our needs clash. Sometimes a person literally cannot give a short answer until after the long answer has crystallized it in their mind.

Now that I recognize the connection to my school memories, I think I’ll advocate for something different. Instead of insisting on a short answer, I’ll confirm that it’s okay to repeat my question later if needed.

The more I untangle the shame of my past, the more I can conquer my fears.

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.