Lack of ability to understand inference

It sometimes astonishes me that I can totally miss the point of a conversation that the rest of the participants in that conversation understand perfectly. Like a lot of people with Aspergers, inference and hidden meanings trouble and confuse me a lot.I often find myself watching a TV programme and being completely surprised by the result of a storyline and then finding out that other people who have watched the same programme aren’t surprised at all!I seem to miss out on a whole layer of meaning that other people pick on effortlessly. It’s as if my brain just can’t process it!

This of course leads to issues in daily life. Many times I have been given instructions with inferred meanings and then been chastised for not following these instructions when I did exactly as I was verbally told but didn’t pick up on the subtleties of what was being communicated to me.Just as I can’t understand how people pick up these hidden meanings so effortlessly, other people can’t understand how I don’t pick up on them! I think that this is a large part of what makes communication so frustrating for both people on the spectrum and those around us too.

This lack of ability to understand inference and hidden meanings also means that I don’t pick up on social manipulation the way other people often do. It has to be explained to me for me to be able to see why someone is behaving in a particular way or coming out with a particular rhetoric. This often leads people to assume me as naive (which in itself is a great shame if not understanding social manipulation is seen as a disadvantage but that’s another issue!) These things just don’t enter into my head and I am often shocked at how much of someone’s motives I missed once it is all explained to me.

Oddly enough, I am more likely to pick up on inference when I am reading. I don’t know if this is because it is a solid, predictable format rather than being muddled by noises and faces or whether I can predict how a book is going to end because of how others in the same genre have ended but I can often pick up on someone’s intentions in a novel where I can’t in a TV programme or in real life.

I have a final plea to readers of my blog who are not on the autistic spectrum. Please keep it simple when communicating with someone who you know to be on the spectrum. Be clear and concise and request exactly what you want from us. Please don’t be offended if you don’t make instructions very clear and we end up doing tasks wrong. Try and think why we might have ended up doing the task wrong-maybe rephrase the instruction. It doesn’t matter how intelligent or educated someone with Aspergers is-they can still have specific problems with understanding inference and hidden meanings-please don’t make them feel bad about it. If you do phrase instructions clearly, you will find that the majority of people with Aspergers will do anything that’s asked of them (within reason of course!) You just need to give us that chance. I would be interested to hear the views of other people on the spectrum too as to any issues failing to get hidden meanings has caused them. I look forward to hearing from some of you.