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Autism severity can change substantially during early childhood, study suggests (ucdavis.edu)
175 points by EndXA 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 182 comments

> The study also found that IQ had a significant relationship with change in symptom severity. Children with higher IQs were more likely to show a reduction in ASD symptoms.

This is important information. People of higher intelligence would be more likely to learn things, such as how to mask effectively. I learned to mask so well that most people are shocked to learn that I'm autistic. It takes about 6 months of constant exposure for someone to get creeped out and dislike me, to the point that I wonder if I've done myself a disservice with my masking habit.

This mirrors my experience, I can pass for neurotypical I guess, but in new social situations I have to put in a lot of effort to figure out what behavior people expect from me.

I guess it's great that I can blend into society but there is always the feeling that I'm just pretending to be a normal person. I feel that I've figured out how to be pleasant person to work with but sustaining deeper relationships feels almost impossible. It kinda sucks being smart enough to realize what you are missing out on.

People are different, and some types are more frequent than others.

Another important thing is social skills. If you have poor social skills, you will have problem connecting even with your type. If you have good social skills, you can find "harmony" with your type, and "cooperation" with other types.

The problem is that no amount of social skills will translate the "cooperation" into "harmony". At best it will make you a perfect social chameleon.

Therefore, people who belong to a frequent type need to learn social skills, but people who belong to an infrequent type need to learn social skills and then spend of lot of time searching for other people of the same type.

This is further complicated by the fact that people of the infrequent type often need to pretend to be someone else, in order to avoid social punishment. But if they pretend to be someone else, and the people they are looking for also pretend to be someone else for similar reasons, that makes it even more difficult to find each other.

Also it takes some maturity to understand what exactly your type is. Meanwhile, people of the frequent types will keep telling you "actually, all you need is to start doing things that I like to do; look at me, I have plenty of friends and social success!"

Presumably they're creeped out because they believe your emotional responses are simulated and that your engagement in phatic discourse is inauthentic?

But how they can they tell the difference? And even if they can how do they know that this isn't also true of everybody else, only that others are superior fakers?

How can they even know that their own responses are authentic? I ask because I'm really not sure about this in my own mind.

In my attempts to discover the secret behind perfect social interaction, people I've spoken to have been unable to explain exactly how they do it. It seems reasonable to assume that the brains of social animals are specially tuned to learn social interaction quickly, as such individuals would more quickly form a cohesive group with better survival potential (historically speaking).

The question of authenticity, though interesting philosophically speaking, I think can be safely downgraded to simply "how it works in practice". Most people seem to do it out of some sort of instinct, and most people really are telegraphing their true feelings and intentions to varying degrees.

I have become close to several extremely social people and discussed this quite a bit. I realized that they approach socializing the same way I approach engineering and the like. At a party they clearly see the subtle or not so subtle effects of their actions and gauge the situation on a meta level without even really realizing that they’re doing it. It’s almost as though some of my neural circuitry originally intended for socializing was applied to an awareness of “things” instead.

I experience this in a sense when I meditate deeply (= a 10 day retreat, 10 hours per day). What I see in my field of vision, I then feel in my body. It's a whole new information channel that I'm able to tap into, and it's lightning quick. It tapered down a bit since I'm not meditating anymore, but it didn't fully go away (this was 8 years ago).

What I think that happens: my insula attached to the default mode network and is feeding information into it. It gives the ability of being much more sensitive at certain forms of empathy.

I remember before I went in thinking: research says I'll be better at emotional intelligence when I do this, I wonder what will happen. 10 days later I realized I became a lot better at empathy. So my emotional intelligence did grow :)

There's quite some research on this, but I'm going to be lazy and simply recommend Search Inside Yourself.

Disclaimer: the experience discussed in this comment is one of the reasons why I chose my username back in the day. So I'm biased.

Care to plug the retreat? Or a similar option?

Hmm... Yes, I guess?

The issue is: the practice that I got was amazing, but the theory is... not worth listening to. Fortunately, it was cheap, so 10 hours of practice and 1 hour of entertainment (is what I called it) was fine.


Though, if others have other Vipassana retreats, then don't consider this one as better.

Also: I wouldn't go in expecting that you'll experience my description above. However, you can go in with the idea that you're training your emotional intelligence, somehow. It's up to you to discover how it happened. For me the effect was screamingly obvious. But I can't guarantee that it will be for you and if it isn't then it's tough to distinguish it from placebo. With all those disclaimers in place, the above website is where I did a retreat (3 times now).

Imagine going to the gym for years. It takes years of endurance, even your best efforts and intentions however imperfect. The results stay for life. Your mind-body is a complete vehicle, and others are even sharing the ride. Nobody can answer your life for you, though perspectives are broadened.

I have the same theory, I noticed some intuitiveness when dealing when troubleshooting any kind of issue and even if I can explain ex-facto the rationality behind some approaches, I struggle to explain why I made that decision in the heat of the moment.

I noticed the same struggle when I talk to more extroverted people abouth the problems when approaching people.

> I realized that they approach socializing the same way I approach engineering and the like.

That sounds like a dishonest way of treating people, and might be a reason why some people prefer to be more introvert.

I don't see it that way. They're not 'social engineering', they just have a greater understanding as to where interactions will go and the confidence to carry out said interactions. The only alternative for them is being willfully blind to social interaction which isn't a real option in my view.

As long as your external actions and your underlying goals are in harmony there is no dishonesty.

Look at it like this:

I have a friend.

Friends try to do good things for each other.

My friend seems different today than they are usually.

They are sad.

My friend likes getting flowers.

I want them to be happier.

I will say something nice and buy them a flower.

It cheered them up a bit.

I will ask how they are, because I notice that other people do that for their friends and it helps.

On the one hand you could say, hey that's calculated manipulation. Which it kind of is and that sounds negative and dishonest.

But there is nothing dishonest about it. It's something many people might do without even thinking about which is why it seems odd to spell out as a rational process. But if you don't get it intuitively, you may have to resort to a rational process to figure out how to cheer your friend up.

I don’t know if that’s quite what they meant. I understood it as an “intuitiveness.”

I used to work with young adults on the autism spectrum at a ymca camp and the higher functioning folks lacked the ability to intuitively interact with others- the same way I might not intuitively understand engineering problems. I get frustrated by them and don’t know what to do. Imagine if that is how you felt interacting with people on a very basic basis.

I think that the key is whether you're using system 1 or system 2 thinking in social situation. It's a concept popularized by Thinking, Fast and Slow. System 1 is automatic, effortless, quick - for example face recognition. System 2 is deliberate, tiring, slow - think of solving an equation. It's kind of similar to unconscious vs conscious.

When people are naturally good in social situations, they're primarily using system 1 for decision making such as "what should my facial expression be". It's kind of a state of flow, in which system 2 mostly just observes what system 1 is doing, without micromanaging every face muscle, intonation, sentence, etc.

This may also be a reason why introverts find social interaction tiring.

(This is just my understanding.)

I would advice to get a hold on the book "The inner game of tennis", which is, exactly like it sounds, a book on tennis training.

Except when it's not.

It hold advices that can be generalized to improve your ability to learn without using analysis and develop natural actions in a given field.

Apply it to social interactions. Those are much better for everyone involved when you mostly instinctively react, yet subtly adjust using logic, not the opposite.

I spent my early 20s doing this, and stopped after a few caring people pulled me aside and told me to stop doing strange things X, Y, Z.

This happens if you miss the "subtly adjust using logic" step.

They don't know how they do it because they delegate it to specialized hardware. You have specialized hardware too but your brain has repurposed it to other tasks. You have to train yourself to do social interaction, and you can get pretty good at it. The people who have it implemented in hardware, however, unconsciously employ a series of tests to determine whether you're ingroup or outgroup. Some of these tests are timing-based and you will flunk if you cannot produce the correct social response at the correct time. Difficult to do unless you're hardwired with their ingroup's form of social programming.

Well unfortunately there are people that can perfectly conceal their true feelings and intentions. Perhaps they are the ones that you need to interview. Though I suppose by definition they won't be very forthcoming.

I think it's very interesting. I, like I suppose many people in this thread, am virtually always consciously masking in interactions with people. I'm also happy to explain this to folks who are interested, and I haven't ever been called out on it, so you could say that I'm "perfect" in that regard. I doubt whether I adhere perfectly to "normal" behavior, but people don't ask about it, at least.

I think it's just a matter of effective control of yourself and a full understanding of the people and situation you're in. Most people on the spectrum struggle with the understanding bit, or the control bit, or both. I'm really lucky in that I'm pretty decent at both halves, so I don't think there's a true "secret to learn", it's more about capacity and ability.

The biggest thing I've learned is that I don't really like myself when I'm in full-facsimile mode, and so I consciously try to lower the facade whenever possible, but it's difficult after a lifetime of training by social sanctions.

> The biggest thing I've learned is that I don't really like myself when I'm in full-facsimile mode, and so I consciously try to lower the facade whenever possible, but it's difficult after a lifetime of training by social sanctions

Care to elaborate on this? What is the facsimile mode? My intuition tells me it’s the mirroring of the social interaction. If that’s what you mean I might have similar feelings towards it, I sometimes find some interactions awkward if I am too aware. If im lost in the flow it all goes much better

I just mean being fully in the facade of making all the expressions, gestures, and small talk stuff. Basically acting "normal" as much as I can. It's a lot of work, and it feels very fake. It feels disrespectful of the people around me, if I don't "mean it" when I say "Hey how's it going" and talk about the weather and sports and smile and nod.

I cannot do facade at all but I could comfortably be me under certain conditions: under low noise environment both physical and information, if I am not stressed out for another reason. I do feel awkward if I present something and I am not prepared but under certain conditions also I can wing it out nicely. It does depend a lot on whether I fit in within a group or not. If you think about it, forcing it when it's not there is really not very productive.

I am still not sure whether I am on the spectrum and wouldn't help me out much to be diagnosed, I've accepted a long time ago that I am somewhat different from the norm but not necessarily in a bad way, I simply am not a very good speaking person - I do excel in other modes of communication, just not with words. But I guess with hard work one can train to perform something that they're not natively apt to do just to get the job done, one doesn't have to strive to be best because that puts too much pressure and leads to stress. I hope you be compassionate and comfortable with yourself:)

Let me ask you one more thing. Do you dance at all? If not can you describe why not? I'm very curious.

It's just second nature for me at this point. I'm on my game if I'm around people I can't 100% trust, and it takes another effort on top of that to shut it off. It makes a lot of things in my life a real struggle, but it is what it is.

I have danced, and do dance, but it's not exactly my favorite thing. Not super compelling to me.

I asked you about dancing because I used to.. anti-dance when I was trying to. At some point i started experimenting with rhythm and drums and something clicked and am not a more creative dancer than many and thought that may have been related to the spectrum but it’s probably not. Cheers

There are far more people who effortlessly self-modify to believe and feel what is most socially helpful, without conscious consideration. We call them “normal”.

That's actually an interesting topic in itself. It's been observed that many sociopaths and psychopaths don't spend long on one person. I wonder if it's because they eventually give off enough tells that others start to notice...

Some of my business partners are sociopaths and psychopaths. (Despite the various people that will clarify the difference, I feel like these are not mutually exclusive terms.)

Sometimes they want to do fraudulent things and are obviously willing to implicate others and I just steer them away and give them another option. I think they like that they are spotted but not shunned.

Or maybe I'm a mark to them, or maybe I'm a sociopath too. To the top of society you say? That's the plan..

But they aren't retreating because they've been found out. I just point out how the legitimate way is actually more lucrative.

(ie. maybe they want a commission deal on an impossible financial product that a client is interested in because the risks haven't been disclosed, I tell them we can offer a legitimate financial product with 2% management fees and 20% of profits and make way more money)

That has been my experience with people I know who exhibit sociopathic tendencies. One of the more interesting tells is a projection onto people who can see that they are pretending.

What do you mean? That they call them psychopaths?

That is an impossible accusation, as you could be wrong (plus too honest for own good), but the person would be masking better than you as well! Anyway, personal traits aren't criminal.

I've heard sociopaths even excuse their "eccentric inattention to others" as possibly having asperger tendencies! Most people still lack experience to even understand they are poles apart.

Regarding projections, burn the "rule book". Setting up "outside" people for failure is common but not enough to distinguish. Bullying, condescending remarks, getting others to chime in. It starts with boasting about the last victim, then you're next.

Only thing that can stop it is people stop tolerating abuse in their environment. USA is now "it".

Agree with this.

I also realize I wasn't clear here, so lets says you have a person A who is a sociopath talk to person B. After that interaction person A comes to person C (me in this example) and says "I don't know, they strike me as a sociopath."

Now in these cases, when I've had enough interaction with Person A in other situations, to feel confident in my understanding of their challenges, and when the feedback on Person B from other sources are not reflective of that perception, and are typically hard over the other way ("this person is so empathic" kinds of things).

I hypothesize that the body language of Person B was signaling to Person A that their masking was not as effective as they would have liked.

The other thing I wanted to be clear about is that it isn't a judgement about them either way, people are who they are. What is important as a manager is understanding the dynamics of your team and how they perceive the world and evaluate it. One has to do that if you have any chance at all of working together effectively.

If A is a bully, categorize B as possible future mark. This for very few A, B and opportunity.

If A is not a conscious bully (for lack of a better term), B could be perceived as artificial, weak, blunt, out of bounds, insulting, exploitative, etc. Reaction is to push "out" and "defend", maybe "as if" leader. Introspection at A may overcome reaction, though may need reassurance from respected source (=leadership). A and B will probably never work great together, though minimal interaction can work consciously. How A and B relates defines span of real org culture (in heaven).

Yes, sometimes in so many words, and sometimes obliquely, but essentially correct. Again, not a doctor, nor do I have a tremendous amount of interaction with known sociopaths.

In many cases it is pointless to ask a person why they are good at a particular skill. At best on get a honest answer that a person does not know. At worst one hears an elaborated story that at first sounds plausible, but then a realization comes that it was just a construct that the person believed themselves but that had no value at training the skill.

It is much more productive to simply watch the videos how people are doing it.

Yes, most people are naturally sociable and don't think about it.

A lot of extroverted people are intelligently sociable and are very aware of what's going on, to the point it's natural for them.

I think that most of those people kind of assume others are the same way and so might not be quite as sympathetic to those with low EI.

Just drink a couple beers and you'll discover the secret...not caring.

Caring is a big one. And for that I may just tell them Im socially handicapped jokingly and then immediately I stop caring and become more social. Sure, there are some limits, I still have a hard time being at large parties where the noise is disorienting and find myself stepping out for some fresh air more frequently. These interactions drain my batteries but are sometimes necessary.

I can’t really recommend it because of how likely you are to do something stupid but lots and lots of alcohol fueled socializing is how I leveled up my social skills over the course of one summer. It also caused an audible change in the prosody of my speech, going from unusually monotone to more expressive.

Normal people are extremely sensitive to deviations from social norms. There's even a word for it, "coolness" and more modern derivatives. Human social interactions are extremely complex, both verbal and otherwise, and people will subconsciously become uncomfortable or disinterested when people deviate too far from patterns.

The weird kids get bullied because they are legitimately weird. But pretending to be normal is difficult and tiring and inevitably you say or do enough unusual stuff that you give off weird "vibes".

And what we call "bad vibes" are often just people picking up subconsciously on subtle abnormal behaviors. I doubt that 90% of the population has actually considered any of this from an introspective perspective. Asperger's is simultaneously obvious and invisible. And doubly difficult because the rules we are supposed to follow are abstract and unspoken, exactly the kind of ideas with which autism makes people struggle.

I really like this idea.

I agree the average person responds to unusual behavior with the same innate revulsion we fee to a physical deformity (perhaps to a lesser degree). However I think both revulsions do dissipate with time.

I think what doesn't dissipate, is the distaste for when somebody doesn't follow important and healthy social codes. For example, there's a stereotype of "nerds" pedantically interrupting everybody to correct minor or irrelevant details ("um actually..."). Now, stereotype aside, this type of behavior is genuinely offputting and counterproductive.

To a large extent I think "coolness" is the ability to keep the conversation flowing when a potentially emotional topic gets invoked. The opposite is that person who has a certain trigger-word, where if it ever shows up in passing, derails the whole conversation on a 1-man tirade.

In summary, I find a lot of what makes a good conversational isn't following arbitrary norms of the era, but a strong empathy/understanding for the emotional effect of every topic and bouncing between those emotional states with grace.

>In summary, I find a lot of what makes a good conversational isn't following arbitrary norms of the era, but a strong empathy/understanding for the emotional effect of every topic and bouncing between those emotional states with grace.

I think the problem is that norms actually encode this information - it's not just empathy and understanding, it's empathy and understanding that is appropriate as per the zeitgeist. The normal range of responses is entirely defined by local culture and not only is this the kind of implicit, abstract set of ideas that autism can make difficult to learn, but this discussion itself is also a social grey area which is only appropriate with a minority of people; and then only if they're already familiar and comfortable with you.

When you lack internal boundaries, it is difficult to navigate those of others when they are not communicated to you explicitly.

> For example, there's a stereotype of "nerds" pedantically interrupting everybody to correct minor or irrelevant details ("um actually..."). Now, stereotype aside, this type of behavior is genuinely offputting and counterproductive.

The silver lining is that this behavior can be consciously suppressed, if the importance of suppressing this behavior is successfully conveyed to the person doing it. I wish somebody had taught me this lesson when I was younger, it could have saved me a lot of trouble.

Bottling up this urge is difficult though, so I use the internet as an outlet for it, sparing the people in my life I actually care about.

There's another name for it, actually:


I've wondered about whether Asperger's could be considered a learning difficulty related to these in the past, especially having read that chronic anxiety can be approached in that way:


> Presumably they're creeped out because they believe your emotional responses are simulated and that your engagement in phatic discourse is inauthentic?

Why would you assume that? While it is theoretical possibility, there are many more other possibilities in play.

Well that's why I put a question mark on the end. It was my best guess.

I would not expect it to be authenticity and complicated philosophy or self.

It may simply be, that communicating with autistic takes much more effort from neurotypical people, is more frustrating. Eventually they stop trying and putting that effort on. Just as communicating with other is tiring for autistic, except neurotypicals have plenty of neurotypicals around to communicate with.

I dont really want to guess, knowing nothing about parent. But the issues in communication with different functional autistic people I had observed that broke it down where things related to social interactions. For example, inability to imagine yourself in other peoples situation can make autistic look selfish and unfair (when enforcing rules for example). It also makes it hard to impossible to strike compromise as opponents situation is not taken into account by autistic and is perceived as "illogical".

Autistic can be overstepping boundaries without really knowing, making people uncomfortable as they have to defend those boundaries. Can be insulting or controlling without having bad intention, which forces other people to react to it in "defense" or leave for own sanity.

It can also be a superpower, to raise issues across boundaries that most people give up and submit to silently. If you're wrong, the backlash prevents much damage and everyone learns something "new". In many cases, the boundaries are self-sabotage and immaturity, ie. org silos.

It is superpower when you know where and when to use it for benefit.

That is pretty much opposite of autism, where the person is using it randomly and often to personal loss.

> If you're wrong, the backlash prevents much damage and everyone learns something "new".

Backslash gets autistic bullied in retaliation. Often by people who perceive autistic to be bully and feel righteous in "self defense".

> In many cases, the boundaries are self-sabotage and immaturity, ie. org silos.

I meant personal boundaries. The set of limits healthy people impose on themselves and the world around them. They define responsibilities, what’s acceptable treatment and what isn’t. How you don't allow others to take advantage of you or manipulate you.

The boundaries are healthy and not immature at all. People who dont have them end up being treated badly and prime target for narcissists and such.

Being human is being of service. But it's mostly learned behaviour, or need some guidance. Personal boundaries can also be learned. Surrounding oneself with people of best intentions can unlock much human potential. Though there's limited attention to distribute, so net can't be cast too broadly.

Although I will of course from time to time entertain such thoughts in most cases I will just assume responses are authentic, due to Ockham's razor, and I suppose most people probably assume authenticity as well, thus when they suspect inauthenticity they get creeped out.

That might be what creeps out people more so than the apparent inauthenticity: the realization that their own behaviour might be in no way different from what they perceive as constructed. This poses questions about self, "soul", and "what is real".

It's sort of like telepathy, seriously. On Star Trek, there was Deanna Troi who was empathic, telepathic with emotions only.

I actually think it goes even beyond feeling to thought as well. We are extremely sensitive to the inner mental lives of others and respond both consciously and unconsciously. It takes a sociopath or an extremely practiced actor to fool us. For the vast number of people, we can read their inner mental states as easily and effortlessly as reading a roadsign, even if they don't want to be read and are trying to hide their true feelings or opinions. Children are especially easy to read, which is why they can't hide anything from their parents.

And since we can almost all do this, many conversations, especially work conversations exhibit a sort of continuous doublespeak where there's what I say and what I mean and I can't tell you what I mean outright since it would be rude or unprofessional but I know you know what I mean.

But when I notice someone on the spectrum, I start speaking explicitly with the understanding that the content of what I say will be much more important then what I'm feeling.

> We are extremely sensitive to the inner mental lives of others and respond both consciously and unconsciously.

This is so wrong it's hilarious.

Humans are terrible at ascribing meaning to what other people do. It even spawned a saying: "We judge others by what they do; we judge ourselves by what we intend."

As such, we, as humans, generally have zero idea what is going on in someone else's brain when they do something unexpected (it is unexpected after all). An individual has to work very hard to "cut others slack" under most conditions.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few bad social actors nowadays who attempt to take advantage of that, and there don't seem to be quite as many people who will take those bad actors on.

I don't think it's really wrong to say most are sensitive to external indications of others' internal experience. Simultaneously, as you point out, we're often pretty bad at inferring intentions from this information. But we have much more than zero idea what's going on, in most cases; the amount we know and our level of certainty could be viewed as a function of cultural context, group cohesion, cooperation/competition under stress, individual differences, power dynamics, social norms, etc.

> It even spawned a saying: "We judge others by what they do; we judge ourselves by what we intend."

There is much evidence for an effect like this in social psychology, commonly called the fundamental attribution error.

I'll just suggest to you personally and quite seriously that even if you have zero idea what's going on in someone else's head, most other people have an immediate and intuitive idea of what's going on, so intuitive in fact that they often mistake the thoughts and feelings of others as their own. This is my daily lived experience, as fundamental as gravity and atmospheric pressure.

> As such, we, as humans, generally have zero idea what is going on in someone else's brain when they do something unexpected (it is unexpected after all).

The thing is, we don't do unexpected things in front of each other all that often. Which is why neurotypical people generally do have a sense for each other's state of mind.

Aspies have trouble with this even in normal situations.

Well then what is it that people on the Asperger spectrum are missing, if it is not this ability?

You are asking a question that psychologists can't even definitively answer yet, you know.

That's not true. We don't know the causes of Asbergers, but there is lots known about their cognitive and behavioral deficits.

Being "creeped out" is mostly a function of instinct. It's something you feel in your gut (or wherever instinct lives for you). This means that if you do not have it, it's hard to explain.

The questions you are asking sort of miss the point, there's plenty of ways people can explain their instinct but at the end of the day it's not really a conscious process. If you don't have the same instincts as some people have, I suppose it would be natural to end up with the questions you do. What's important to remember is that they don't have the answers either.

If you really want an explanation that may or may not be true, in my personal experience I can tell that things are simulated or inauthentic unless (as you say) they're being simulated by an extremely competent actor (in the sense that they are acting). Even with people who act very competently, there are always (at least, I've never met an exception) small indicators over time that feel a little wrong. You can't act 24/7, so the longer people interact with you (if you are acting) the more likely it is they'll see you slip up.

This isn't really a problem, as the experience of getting to know someone naturally tends to lead to you seeing them in an entirely different light. The trick is figuring out when to show some authentic drive of yourself and when to present a socially desirable composite. That trick is something you learn by making a lot of mistakes (or if there's some rule to it, I have no idea what it is). If you don't consciously stop acting at some point and people see through it on their own, then it becomes creepy. The ideal is to head that off and figure out together if you are compatible personality types.

Not an expert but have friends and subordinates who have had this problem. I also help care for a stroke victim, and the “inauthentic” issue reminds me of the motor planning problems that are brought on by strokes.

Sometimes novel situations create lags in response time, confusion or time to think about a response. It’s especially hard with very sarcastic people or people who purposefully being assholes.

I'm something non-neurotypical (no idea what), and I'm only able to speak by brute-forcing it (I compose a script for what to say, and then say it, and ideally this happens in a reasonable time). If I thought a bit slower, I would probably just be nonverbal; in many respects, I am.

Hope you don't mind me asking this. How would you describe your normal behavior versus your masked behavior? What's different between the two?

That's sort of the problem. I don't have a solid baseline to work against. I observe certain behaviors like facial expressions (smiling convincingly is especially difficult), discussions about irrelevant things (except that they serve a social function), looking into someone's eyes (very difficult), certain postures that have meaning (you're bored, you're angry, you're... something) . It's a lot to keep straight in your head (both in your own exhibited behavior and observing and translating other peoples' behaviors), and if you have to think about these things consciously, it's exhausting.

Eyes! Eyes! Is what I tell my 13 year old daughter.

But she is far more comfortable looking away while in conversation. The theory that has resonated most with me is that both facial interpretations and language processing are very cerebral processor intensive. Turning off your facial tracking algorithm by looking away frees more brain nodes to help with processing and thinking about what you are hearing and saying.

So I’m torn. Do I continually push her to look at faces during conversations, because over time it will build up more efficient neural pathways for that kind of processing? Or is it just something unique about her I can’t change and I am just causing her unresolvable stress?

> Do I continually push her to look at faces during conversations

I'm sure you asked this mostly rhetorically, but I thought I'd chime in with my two cents.

If your daughter is on the autism spectrum (guessing from the context) and is 13, she probably already finds socializing somewhat aversive and exhausting. Pushing her to make the experience even more aversive by insisting she look people in the eye is probably going to make things worse.

But I don't think that means that you can't change it. I would just suggest practice eye contact or looking at faces in small intervals only during some conversations. E.g. have a schedule and do a short conversation once a week where she deliberately practices it.

More generally, maybe try to think of the goal as moving the needle from where she is, not to achieve neurotypical levels of eye contact.

A very computer-centric theory ;-). I think it has some merit, but there can be more factors.

I've also had the eye looking problem, and yes, it was uncomfortable and harder to concentrate. But now it I'm around 30 it has become quite natural. Not a parent, but what I imagine might help besides 'just trying to do it' is seeing the use and fun of eye contact:

* Explain eye contact helps people understand you are interested in them. Of course hopefully you have some real, friendly interest in someone ;-). Friendly listening to someone and looking at them is a good step to getting more familiar/friends.

* Maybe help her recognize more of the expressions in and around the eyes. It is a very interesting part of the face. And you don't have to look someone exactly in the eye to see most of it... Besides angry/sad/happy, what are the little signs that show someone is becoming irritated, lost interest or getting bored, is thinking, is messing with you, disagrees (but maybe too polite to tell), etc. Recognizing it in movies, and possibly imitating the expressions can also be a 'safer' step.

* It works two ways. You let others see more of you by looking them in the eyes. You have to open up in a way, can get more self-conscious, and thus uncomfortable. Looking someone in the eyes can make them trust you more, helps them see your intentions, if you really mean what you say, that you know what you are saying... But you may just want to start opening up some more with people you already feel comfortable with.

Still, eye contact is culture dependent. For me, what helped me were these motivations, and that I forced myself to have on estimate 100+ little wel-intentioned conversations with strangers per week (Jehovah's Witness).

Im 40 and still have this problem. I remember my father saying “look into my eyes”, doing it then my mind going immediately blank. Now I don’t care, I just look away when I need to. It’s a quirk that I don’t care how it’s interpreted. And I noticed that it matters where one looks away: up slightly to right for accessing some type of thoughts, down for a deeper thinking mode, etc. I’ve been pondering for a while whether Im on the spectrum or not. I have the empathy, too much of it. I don’t have the social scripts and always have to improvise and that is tiring after a while. I often wondered how come nobody told me what to do in certain situations and I wished i was educated by someone on this. But the truth is that this is simply picked up naturally and never taught. Yes, my father suspected I may be on the spectrum but back then a lot less was known.

I've traveled the world, worked abroad, been teaching, had subtle experiences with and without other people. My world is both magical, scientific, and flat. Your hypothesis is interesting, but despite all exposure, a family evening can still tire my mind. Rather than finding a cure, be what you are.

She's old enough to know the tradeoffs, and she can probably make the choice for each occasion. She can be eye contact averse, which will be deemed off putting by people who don't know her personally just yet, and may make bad first impressions. Or she can make the conscious choice to maintain eye contact at appropriate levels (for some people that literally means having to count silently and look away at regular intervals, because non-stop eye contact is also off putting), at the cost of finding the occasion tiring and needing to curl up somewhere afterwards.

(FWIW, the lock down has limited my social activity to circles that tolerate my eye contact aversion, and I am taking advantage of it to get what slack I can)

Find a video (youtube) where autistic people (especially women) describe how they mask. In particular, staring really hard at where the person's third eye would be, or smiling really hard at them (to the point of squinting) may work for some.

As someone who is. You don't get more efficient in that manner. You can get efficient in other ways. But there's no breaking the laws of physics, biology, or the wiring you were born with.

What you describe happens to me especially in groups. My trick is to pick a point slightly off - their forehead, a little to the side, a random visible point just past them - and focus there. It's almost imperceptible to most especially if they're caught up in the convo, and allows me to process. Sometimes in a long convo, I may have to change my focus point multiple times. It takes practice, and you only get that actually talking to people.

Another thing to keep in mind depending on severity. Depending on her niche (the 1 or 2 things her brain specializes in) social interaction over an extended period will make her mentally tired. In a large group, this can happen exponentially.

I do okay one on one. Or in groups of up to half a dozen or so. However, I built my coping mechanisms over 30+ years. Even then, I have to pace myself, for example if I am at a party. I've spoken to large groups before as part of my day work and volunteer work. 2-4 hours at a party or 20-60 minutes in front of 100+ people, and I am exhausted. This is because the part of the brain I'm using for that task in me wasn't built for that.

If you want an analogy, imagine the hardware bits of a computer for an analogy of my brain. Now imagine all the parts are wired together differently from the standard architecture of such a system. The GPU is being used for CPU tasks, so other part is being used for a purpose not originally designed, and so on. The OS has been written to compensate for the architecture change but there's no documentation and the person who wrote it has vanished. Topper, the video and audio outputs instead of going to a monitor and speaker are hooked instead to a blender full of margarita mix. Basically, that's my life.

That doesn't mean she can't make friends and have a fulfilling life. It doesn't mean she doesn't feel as much as others. If anything, my emotions are probably more intense than a lot of folks. Aggravated by not being able to express them effectively. The friends you do make and keep mean that much more, especially if they know what you are. If also means she may feel her failure to keep some friends more deeply. I have kept friends through adulthood and a war or two. I've also lost some and I will never stop missing that particular part of my soul.

Try the slightly off focus point trick, give it time and practice.

> Or is it just something unique about her I can’t change and I am just causing her unresolvable stress?

Why don't you let her decide?

Because that’s not parenting? This may be an unpopular truth in today’s world, but sometimes you need to make your kids do or try things they are resistant to in hopes it gives them skills to better succeed when they are adults.

It might be worth noting that the degree of face-watching during conversation is quite culture-dependent.

Sure, but why does this cross the line into “a kid can’t make the decision for themself”?

And forcing them to do something they find extremely uncomfortable makes you a good parent. No, this is not parenting.

I learned how to mask so effectively that I didn’t even realize I’m autistic until literally a few weeks ago (I’m in my 30s). It doesn’t help that the pop culture idea of autism is really what’s often called “boy autism”[1] and “girl autism” is a lot more subtle. I’m trying to dismantle some of my masking now, because it feels a hell of a lot better to stop suppressing my natural inclinations and it’s helping me deal with my social anxiety.

[1]: Note: “boy autism” and “girl autism” are really misnomers, “boy autism” can occur in girls and “girl autism” can occur in boys.

I think that's also true of schizophrenia. Like the main character in A Beautiful Mind, John Nash, my brother was able to discern what was hallucination and what wasn't. The less intelligent a person is, the more difficult that must be.


> The Misnomer of 'High Functioning Autism': Intelligence Is an Imprecise Predictor of Functional Abilities at Diagnosis

It has been found previously to not be correlative. Can someone give insight into this discrepency?

Presumably "requires further study", but one thing that comes to mind is that the linked study looks at early childhood (ages 3-6) whereas the study you linked considers a wider range of ages (1-18).

Second guessing behaviors that left a livelong impact on your life is the most human thing there is so I wouldn't overthink it, and I'm glad you can articulate your thoughts and have a drive to share them on platforms such as this one.

How specifically are you imitating a neurotypical person? Like are you pretending to be compassionate when you're not? And what specifically is it about you that creeps people out when they discover it?

Am sorry to hear that they dislike you. At the risk of sounding extremely insensitive, can you share more?

I ask because I'm mildly Asperger's myself.

I'm not really sure what else there is to share. It generally goes like this:

- I meet someone, or start a new job, or some such thing.

- People are friendly and everything seems fine for about 6 months to a year.

After that, things get weird quickly, like they throw a switch or something. Either one person starts saying rude things to me and the rest either sit back or join in, or a group of soon-to-be-ex-friends gang up on me suddenly (happened a lot in school), and then very quickly I'm ejected from the group. This happens both socially and professionally. I've also lost jobs this way, where I'd be fired with them refusing to give a reason, or pushed out via some technicality so that they can just have me gone.

My close friends and family tell me that I'm not being mean or condescending or rude or an asshole (I've had many observe me just to be sure), so there's something else going on. And asking the people involved hasn't worked because they won't tell me.

I have high-functioning autism. Does anyone have some suggestions for making and keeping friends?

When I meet a friend, things seem to go really well at first, and then my friend seems to slowly get bored of the interactions we have, and after a couple months I just don't hear from them again. Not sure what I'm doing wrong. Is there a scientific way to find out?

I'm not sure if this helps, but after 45 years as a stranger in a strange land, the only friends I've managed to keep longer than a year have been autistic themselves.

My wife is also autistic, and we both marvel over how, for the first time ever in our lives, our home is our sanctuary where we can just relax and be completely ourselves with all the weirdness that entails. All previous romantic relationships were stressful and ended badly because it felt like I was walking on eggshells, and couldn't understand why my SO kept getting upset. My wife had similar experiences in past relationships.

> All previous romantic relationships were stressful and ended badly because it felt like I was walking on eggshells, and couldn't understand why my SO kept getting upset. My wife had similar experiences in past relationships.

Just so you know, this is not an uncommon complaint in any romantic relationship.

Human relationships are hard. Being "neurotypical" doesn't suddenly make them easy.

> Just so you know, this is not an uncommon complaint in any romantic relationship.

It's worth so much to be able to just ask, and the other party examines the issue and their feelings and simply tells you.

Until your partner gets tired of asking or being asked...

My wife asks all the time, and I don't get tired of it. In fact, it's refreshing, because everyone else has always just assumed the worst in a given situation and decided to "get back" at me for whatever they perceive. To this day there are many people who outright refuse to talk to me over a grudge from something I have no idea about ("you know what's wrong!"). Hell, I've even lost jobs over this kind of thing.

Which gives you some indication of just how much more difficult it can be for others.

The closest I've found to making and keeping friends has been the FBI interrogation manual, which explains how police officers who would normally scare a suspect can get them to disclose intimate details of crimes.



Obviously you're not entering an interrogation, and you also want to level the playing field by sharing information yourself.

I think it's an evidence-based guide to how first impressions are formed, and what people often get out of social interactions.

>The closest I've found to making and keeping friends has been the FBI interrogation manual, which explains how police officers who would normally scare a suspect can get them to disclose intimate details of crimes.

Sorry, but this is the funniest thing I've read on HN in a while.

If you're interested in improving your social skills at work, you might also enjoy the book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk.

Um, seriously, all effective communication techniques are based on basically the same principles; there's a book by a former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss (Never Split the Difference) where he describes hostage negotiations with terrorists, and it all works in the workplace too. These two are significantly better than How to Win Friends and Influence Friends, which is mostly about sales rather than negotiations.

That guy is legit.

It’s the most hacker news comment ever.

In context reasonable, show it elsewhere and derision would follow.


Maybe it's just me, but I'm really not seeing how to apply this

Read the parts on rapport building

Not sure if this helps, however I have the same experience and I am not autistic. My wife has no problem keeping friends though and basically I benefit from the friends she keeps.

The difference is that she keeps relationships hot by constantly messaging them (Whatsapp, etc), calling them or arranging hangouts. She's also a really good listener. My phone calls (e.g. with parents, sister, friends, etc) last for 5 minutes tops, her phone calls last for 30+ minutes :-)

In other words if you want to keep friends, you have to be the one that contacts them (though careful not to creep them out).

On the other hand don't feel bad with a high churn rate. This happens to everybody.

I'm pretty autistic, but the funny thing is I don't keep friendships because I get bored, not them. I was a complete recluse during most of my time at university. I decided I wanted to mate with women when I was about 25 so started to make myself more "marketable". The first stage is being able to make friends.

First thing is the way you look. People like you more if you're good looking. First step is to make sure you're in excellent shape. That means lean to the extend that you can see your cheeks, abdominal muscles and veins on your forearms are prominent. Get yourself a pull up bar and start doing chin ups and press ups every single day.

Then once you're in shape you find a clothing style that works for you. Stick to classic. Don't dress like a child. Wear smart and expensive shoes. Aim to always dress slightly better than you should be at any event, but just slightly. Groom well. Smell good. Grow a beard if you can but keep it very well groomed. Shave your head if you're going bald.

You might think this sounds silly so far, but looking good is very, very important.

People will compliment you on your appearance. Take the compliments. Thank them. Do not automatically compliment them back.

Second thing is to work on your personality. You will be smarter than 95% of people you meet. There's no doubt about it. You will know more and care more about most subjects that come up. Do not under any circumstances use this to "one up" people. The number one rule you need to keep in mind is to be positive. Do NOT tell people they are doing something wrong. Do NOT tell people you don't like something. Always continue a conversation in a positive way. If they mention a band you don't like, mention a band you do like. If they mention a technique that is suboptimal, mention a technique you have found works for you (not "is better").

If you employ this positive outlook along with a broad knowledge and range of interests you will be a person that people like. Hope it helps.

Also, if you are willing to try drugs, MDMA might help you. I wouldn't recommend alcohol or cannabis to anyone, but MDMA is worth it.

some of the wording you used was kind of blunt, but I mostly agree with what you said, especially as a "socializing 101" type explanation.

> The number one rule you need to keep in mind is to be positive. Do NOT tell people they are doing something wrong. Do NOT tell people you don't like something. Always continue a conversation in a positive way. If they mention a band you don't like, mention a band you do like. If they mention a technique that is suboptimal, mention a technique you have found works for you (not "is better").

I want to push back on this a little bit. it's important not to turn every conversation into a debate, but you can go too far with the positivity as well. it's okay to disagree with someone and say so from time to time. if you never disagree with someone, they will probably find you pretty boring.

That's true but if you're going to disagree you have to be presenting your own argument and be ready to genuinely convince them. Too many slightly autistic computer science students would just go on a tirade against the thing the other person said without arguing for anything else.

>You might think this sounds silly //

Not wanting to offend but "sociopathic" is the word that comes to mind for me. Like "I'll do this to manipulate people and induce this response". I'm not going to say you won't be successful, just that your approach sounds very clinical and lacking in warmth and personality.

You do you, I guess.

Don't worry, you can't offend me. Lacking "warmth" is my personality. It's just who I am. This isn't about being fake, it's just about explicitly learning things which other people seem to "just know".

I don't think it's manipulative unless done with malicious intent. If someone is doing nice things for you in order to encourage you to like them, then... good.

When I teach my kids to say "please" when they ask for things and "thank you" when they receive them, am I training them to be little manipulative sociopaths?

There are social rules that many people get told in childhood, or learn by observation. Those who didn't learn them, for whatever reason, may benefit from being told explicitly now.

Also, don't worry. Out of 100 people who read "make sure you're in excellent shape", 99 won't. And the remaining one is probably not a sociopath, and will not become one by following this rule.

Small tip: look for smiles in the corners of the eyes. This happens when laughter is genuine. If you do things that make someone laugh genuinely, they will probably stick around.

How to Win Friends and Influence people is also a masterful book for socializing. It basically teaches you what naturals do automatically.

That's how you can spot if someone is smiling who wears a face mask. corner of the eyes. useful Covid-19-pandemic skill

I’ve forced myself to smile more broadly so it’s actually visible, maybe I should keep the habit! I feel like it’s a crazy grin without the mask on though.

There is very likely not a reliable scientific guide to making and keeping friends, because it depends very much on the circumstances and the people involved.

Some people have many shallow friendships, others just a few deep ones.

Some people extend the hand of friendship early, others take years of persistence to become friends with.

Some people value time spent together on shared experiences, others value talking, others value gifts or help in times of crisis and others value being told how good a friend they are (once the friendship is clearly there).

Many people are friends with individuals they have known since high school and it is generally harder to make new friends after that point. It's also pretty easy to lose friends as you age due to differences of opinions or beliefs.

Perhaps the biggest skills in making and retaining friends is finding common activities and experiences you can share with them (outings, games, sport, dining, interests, topics of discussion, etc.) and finding the right time to invite them to engage with you in such things.

Very often there are logistical hurdles to overcome and that is all: do they have a car, is there a convenient bus, is the venue you are meeting nearby, are you available when they are, do they have a babysitter, is the suggested date suitable for them, have they currently got some other crisis or deadline to deal with, etc.

I find that if I ask to spend time with people too often, they may think I am "clingy" or "needy" and push me away. If I ask too little, the friendship never really gets established. It's a balance that is different for everyone.

To add to your list: Some people don't have any close friends and don't have any [diagnosed or suspected] neural atypicalcy.

Reflecting, I don't require people to have any obligation towards me, and if they don't want to spend time with me that's their call I'm not going to force myself on people, so when people just sort of drift past; that's just what happens. I feel like I could have friends if I was happy to play the part of someone who cared about TV celebrities, fawned over politicians, or idolised sportsmen.

Perhaps one has to be more assertive and demanding to some extent?

You can find friends doing volunteer work, taking courses that interest you, various meetings and groups. You may need to either find a group that draws you in, or try to genuinely talk to people and get to know them. If your goal isn't to be friendly, nothing much will happen.

Fwiw I do/have done those things. I have many acquaintances that will greet me in the street or whatever.

There focus here isn't me, and I'm trying to keep it that way: I mean to say that these things may help but shouldn't be viewed as sufficient.

There's something else needed, for sure. IMO only people who you spend time with outside of the original context are really friends - like someone you have as a colleague might become more than an acquaintance when you, say, go to a (non-work directed) event outside work together. There needs to be some sense of choosing to be with one another, not just happening to be in the same location because you both like volleyball, say.

Some random things that might or might not apply to you in no particular order of importance:

Don't use "friend-finder" sites so much; you talk about using one elsewhere in this thread, but that's not where it's at. They contain the worst of in-person friend-making and the worst of online friend-making, with few of the benefits. Hanging out at events happening near you with people of similar interests & just throwing an anime avatar on yourself and talking on microblogging websites will both do you far better: Get yourself to where the conversation's happening, don't get yourself to where people are looking for conversation.

Make sure to contact others first, too, at least sometimes. Many times it becomes one-sided (X person is always calling Y person but Y person never calls X person) and that's enough to make just about anyone feel bad & alone.

Make sure to keep things varied; talking about the same thing in a loop kills a lot of the enjoyment that comes with knowing people. Everyone has a lot of things they're interested in; try and scope out who you're talking to, and occasionally just throw in things you're interested in that you think align with their interests. This gradually expands the things you can talk about, and keeps things interesting for everyone in the long-term.

Talk at least as much as you listen. "Being a good listener" is great! At least on paper. In reality if you just act as a soundboard, people find you dull. Contributing to the conversation is important!

Don't let every conversation feel like it's the most important thing in the world. If every conversation feels important, most people (there's an exception with a certain academic type who live and die by this experience but they're few and far in-between if you're not intentionally seeking them out) will interpret it as stressful, and that'll eventually be enough to get them to back away.

Make sure to maintain more than a handful of friendships at one time; almost no people will be able or willing to throw energy at you for the twenty hours you're awake in a day, but five, ten or twenty people allows you to fill your day with it while also not depending on any given person an unrealistic amount.

There's not a scientific way. But you can definitely improve on these kind of interactions. The chances that something you are doing something (or equally likely: not doing something) that you had not even considered is putting people off interacting with you.

Do you have anyone in your life that you could ask for feedback? If not then you could look into Autism support services. There are people who specialise in exactly this kind of thing, and they will probably to be able to point you towards things quite quickly as they will most likely have seen the same things before.

It's also worth considering if there are other groups of people that you may not be coming in to contact with who might be more interested in the same things as you. I know some people who now have a very strong friendship group who initially struggled simply because they grew up in an area / environment where there weren't many people like them.

> Do you have anyone in your life that you could ask for feedback?

Unfortunately, I don't. It's a catch-22.

> It's also worth considering if there are other groups of people that you may not be coming in to contact with who might be more interested in the same things as you.

I'm really interested in philosophy. Since January I've been using Bumble to try to find people who share this interests, but I haven't had any luck yet.

Bumble is only slightly less shallow than tinder. Okcupid is much better suited for this task.

Isn't OkCupid for dating? Bumble has a mode specifically for finding friends.

At the end of the day it’s up to you. When I used it plenty of people were there for just friends. No dedicated feature tho

If you are okay with virtual friends...we can be friends.

Interests: anime, programming stuff, reading, startups, playing bad guitar, debating about empathy and being a pedant sometimes. Currently just trying to be productive and improve myself - many shortcomings I ignored for a log time and need to change.

Current reading list includes - some jap novels, how to win friends, statistical rethinking and logic theory.

Current projects include - rewriting my site, start a blog series where I post about everything I am going to do or did to get a product from 0 to first paying customer. That includes all the bad crap I came up, all the bad ideas and absurdism which people don't often share.

(email is in the profile)

Not sure what you mean by scientific way, as there's no real way to test this objectively, maybe you've just had crap luck

On the subject of social skills, there have been many books on the subject, traditionally titled under Asperger's: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/12108.Top_social_skills_...

Friendships, like all relationships, must be nurtured to survive. A lot of neurotypical people are kinda crap at nurturing friendships naturally but they try to do so often in subconscious ways.

If your social skills are below average you may not pick up on the subtle clues, so you'll have to make more explicit efforts to maintain the friendship, and explain to your friends what kind of gestures go toward nurturing it when it comes to yourself, ie you mostly consider time spent together, or chats, or phone calls, gifts, what have you.

I'm not a psychologist but I'm a neurotypical person with a few high functioning autistic friends if you want my opinion on anything.

Speaking of books: Games people play by Eric Berne was an eye-opener for me. If you want to find a logical framework to wrap your head around social interactions, it is a useful book.

For me at least, I found that watching comedy series helps a lot to figure out social transactions. As a positive byproduct you learn to make jokes, which can also help in your pursuit to become socially appropriate.

I also find that if I stay away from computing for a while, I tend to get more normal.

Putting an effort into dressing acceptably (clean, fitting clothes), getting regular haircuts, figuring out how to chit-chat, generally smiling and nodding are my current strategy to fit in.

My son is on the ASD spectrum, high functioning as well. This may not be the same with you, but he has a few passions that he will steer conversations towards if given half a change - do you think you might be doing this?

I'm in the same boat. I've found that people with trauma appreciate me much more than normies. They forgive my awkwardness and appreciate my lack of emotional reaction to their issues. Hope this helps.

It's much easier to make friends at the start of a school year. Or the start of anything really where a new group of people come together and bonds tend to form in that time. Outside of that regular participation in groups tends to lead to friendships but I find them of a shallower quality than the first variety.

From my observations and what I read it seems that most people when they are adults actually have very few friends and there aren't many opportunities to make friends as an adult.

Just as a baseline to compare to I guess...

Every day, try to think of something you can share with them, and then do it. Some ideas:

Tell them about what made you smile that day. Neat moments that you appreciated, but they weren't there to share it with you.

Food and drink. Whatever you're eating and enjoying, share it with that friend. Either invite them out or bring/send it to them.

Text, pictures, and video. Funny and positive, no drama, politics, etc.

Experiences. Think of something you like to do that can be shared, and invite them out to do it.

Share your time and effort. Offer your help, once, maybe twice. Don't be pushy with it. If they accept, help them like a servant, doing exactly what they ask you.

The basic idea is to consistently repeat the combination of "spending time together with you" and "day is improved".

If you do one of these daily with five people for a month, I can almost guarantee you will end up with at least one friend.

After that, you can focus on that one person more for a month to deepen your friendship. After that, add a few more people, but maintain friendship with the one person.

I experience a similar thing. I'm on the spectrum, and with new friends it's always an anxiety inducing countdown until they identify me as an "alien", after which we are really no longer friends - I am an other, to be ridiculed and/or avoided. It's gotten to the point where I don't really try to make friends unless I can detect that the other person is also on the spectrum.

* Listen and be interested. Many people just respond with their own anecdotes, but people really do appreciate it when you listen to them and mirror their emotions on the topics, ask them questions and allow them to express their narrative. Being able share an experience with someone makes it easier to bond. When people are always turning the focus back to themselves, especially in a way that can negate, one-up, argue, try to solve, or dismiss, the intended emotions, it can end up draining.

* The kids that were probably more heavily on the spectrum in school seemed they got teased often. They were targetted for being very defensive. Simple things become heated emotional arguments and especially when things are taken personally. The more someone would react emotionally, the more bullies would use them as a target. If something doesn't make sense, doesn't seem correct, or could have a negative connotation, it's best to not react with negative emotions immediately. Sometimes this is just part of word play or sarcasm that just isn't caught. Give the benefit of the doubt and try to clarify. Avoid arguing, and avoid people or statements that are just trying to get an emotional response, the actual things they say are just a mechanism to trigger that.

* Catch up with people and see where they're at, try to understand what their goals and challenges are and how it's been evolving. Ask them about things they're passionate about and what's new in that space. Remember to think of them when you come across something they may find interesting. You may be passionate about things they're completely uninterested in and it may be worthwhile to skip those if you don't feel much resonance on particular topics. Try to find activities where you can both be really engaged.

In general, show you care about people, teach them, help them reach their goals, be there for them when they need someone to listen. Fire your friends if they don't show some reciprocation, are always negative; self obsessed; pity seeking; complaining, only contact you when they want to offload, etc.

> Is there a scientific way to find out?

That's an interesting question.

I'm reminded of the "3 compatibility questions" some university worked out for asking someone you were considering dating:

- Do you like scary movies?

- Have you ever traveled to another country alone?

- Would you like to ditch it all and go live on a sail boat?

I wonder if there are questions that would scientifically predict compatibility with an autistic person.

Personally I have both (extended) family members, some friends and some coworkers who have (or I suspect have) autism or aspergers.

I enjoy the quirkiness, but I also really enjoyed the big bang theory.

I have an aspergers son and run a 120-member social group for autistic adults and I can say that the #1 issue for the autistic wrt social interaction skills is that they care too much about the audience. I wrote a blogpost about it: https://ericlifeadvise.blogspot.com/2020/02/caring-what-othe...

What I tell me kids is, balance conversations around your friends. Don’t tell them what’s on your mind, you can always get to that later. Ask them what is new with them, ask follow up questions, express interest, shock, delight, concern as needed. Make it your goal to learn more about them every conversation.

It’s easy for my wife to do. Hard for me, and the kids to.

I also saw this advice in “How to make friends and influence people” but I found that following it alienated people: they often felt like they were being interrogated instead of enjoying a conversation.

They probably get bored because your relationship stagnates.

Basically after some time its kinda normal to share deeper stuff, be vulnerable(both you and him, it builds trust), maybe do a Weekendtrip together.

This can also sometimes backfire.. But thats basically how i formed my friendships so far

Do you change your behaviour after you know Somebody for some time?

Can you delve more into the details-- why does this occur? Maybe you could ask them, "I hope you don't mind my asking, I struggle to make friends and I'm wondering if I did anything off-putting?"

Hmm... this is just a suspicion. But one possible reason could be that you're too serious and not playful enough.

I could totally miss the mark here, but that is what I've seen in my own life. I make a friend am too serious, couple of months later I am all by myself again.

So I decided to become more playful, and that really worked! If you are noticing that you might be too serious yourself and might need some playfulness. Here are a couple of things I did:

1. Asking: how am I naturally already playful, I enhanced that. I simply looked harder for more situations to utilize that playfulness.

2. Understanding: what is playfulness? It took me 2.5 years to understand that it means to not be serious (e.g. the sky is purple and there BE CATS ON CATNIP ATTACKING US! <-- it's not funny per se but if practiced a bit people will play along, though this example is well, oh dear, it at least has cats :) ).

2.5 years of trying to get an emotional feel for playfulness. Yep, it didn't come easy but now I have a hang for it. It's quite fun :)

3. What type of playfulness can I do?

This list is non-exhaustive. Note: always err on the side of being respectful if you feel a that a certain form of playfulness is too difficult to pull off. If you don't do that, then you risk being a little mean, and a little offending and all those things. It's not the end of the world, but it's simply not nice.

The types that I know:

- The roleplay: I once approached a woman in a club pretending I was her long lost brother and that I was raised in the jungle by apes and that I was still learning her language speaking very broken English. She laughed her ass off and played along. Who knew that pretending to learn English could be so fun!

- The fantastical exageration: I already provided an example of that.

- Teasing: teasing is like trying to hurt the other person with the twist that it should be positive and not actually hurt them. If this idea seems confusing, err on the side of being positive and not hurting people.

- Trolling: it feels like teasing but it isn't. You basically try to fool someone a bit, but you do need to see if they are able to take it. Err on the side of caution and safety. One friend I have used to be a bit rigid. He's gotten used to me now. So with him I could be quite light saying like: "look, it's a red tree." "No Mettamage, it's brown!" "No it's red, it's like a hellspawn from Satan!" "What do you mean, it's so clearly brown, what are you smoking?" "Everrryything my friend. Want some? ;-)" "My god dude, everything? Haha, you're crazy mettamage" "I know :-)" "Hit me up" "For sure" "Oh, yea, now I see that tree is totally red!" (just to be super explicit: the smoking thing was a roleplay, no one smoked anything)

- Musical improv: I did this since I was 4, it's second nature. Just pretend that life is one big improvized jazz band and hum and dance along with it to whomever you're talking to. It's quite Disney-like really, like some Disney character suddenly starts singing.

4. What happens if I fail? Are there failure modes that I can't recover from?

If people simply think you said something silly but weird, you're fine. If you went a bit controversial and tried to be playful that might pose a problem, so the tricky bit is to stay light. My guide is to stay respectful, that helps a lot.

5. Are there forms of social imitation I could learn from?

- Watch comedy that you like but is popular

- Go to improv classes

This is super helpful! I really think you're onto something. Thanks. :)

Except I go to too far sometimes so I just don't do it.

I guess that is what being serious is even if what you are serious about is roleplaying an abstract machine for days.

No. Only trial and error. Most of those I've hung on to the longest didn't know what I was until years later. Though they knew I was different than most people.

Study abstract:

> Autism symptom severity change was evaluated during early childhood in 125 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children were assessed at approximately 3 and 6 years of age for autism symptom severity, IQ and adaptive functioning. Each child was assigned a change score, representing the difference between ADOS Calibrated Severity Scores (CSS) at the two ages. A Decreased Severity Group (28.8%) decreased by 2 or more points; a Stable Severity Group (54.4%) changed by 1 point or less; and an Increased Severity Group (16.8%) increased by 2 or more points. Girls tended to decrease in severity more than boys and increase in severity less than boys. There was no clear relationship between intervention history and membership in the groups.

The study can be found at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-020-04526-z

I am part of the research team that collects and analyses this dataset, although I am not an author on this particular analysis. Feel free to ask me any questions.

I have a question: how do their analyses account for regression to the mean? The headline sex and IQ differences look exactly like regression to the mean to me: https://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/gtvoan/around_30_p...

Generally, in longitudinal analysis, three data points are the minimum required to fit a line while guarding against reversions to the mean. The lead author is currently assessing data with a third longitudinal timepoint of the ADOS severity measure. That said, the research article tried to guard against this problem by defining the minimum amount of change to be considered a reliable change i.e. a Reliable Change Index statistic (RCI; Jacobson and Truax 1991), which is, in Latex: RCI_{{Z\,SCORE}} = \frac{{({\text{ADOS}}\,{\text{CSS}}{\mkern 1mu} {\text{Time}}{\mkern 1mu} 3 - {\text{ADOS}}\,{\text{CSS}}{\mkern 1mu} {\text{Time}}{\mkern 1mu} 1)}}{{\sqrt {2\left( {SD\sqrt {1 - r_{{xy}} } } \right)^{2} } }} which takes into account test-retest reliability correlations.

Roughly speaking, this meant the the change groups ended up changing dX>+2 or dX<-2 on a 0-10 ADOS severity scale (4 is usually the clinical threshold for ASD diagnosis), while the no change group was defined roughly as between -2<dX<+2.

Furthermore, in data I did help analyze which is currently included in a journal submission, the change groups defined here exhibited altered longitudinal trajectories of white matter fractional anistropy and diffusivity, suggesting biological relevance one might not expect with a statistical reversion to the mean.

I see.

> suggesting biological relevance one might not expect with a statistical reversion to the mean.

Just going to note here that regression to the mean is not 'just' statistical. It happens any time two variables are not perfectly correlated. The imperfect correlation could be due just as easily to 'biological relevance' as it could be to some sort of more purely statistical random error like rater error, so pointing out biology is no evidence. (As in the classic example of the flu patient going to the doctor and recovering afterwards; they really were biologically sick and really did biologically recover.)

Thanks. I will think upon this.

Out of curiosity, what is the basis for the idea that girls have an ability to camouflage or hide their symptoms better than boys? While trying to find information about this, I came across this meta-analytic review of gender differences in emotion expression in children[0], but without being in the field it's hard to make a link between emotion expression and ASD symptomatology.

[0] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3597769/

Camouflage is just one of the potential hypotheses out there, and the one with which I am least familiar. There are ideas about increased social-cognitive abilities in girls, allowing more effective masking/adaption. But it can also be the case that it is not merely camouflaging symptoms, but actually neural adaption and compensation that reduce or even eliminate symptoms. It could be that girls receive more social support than boys, and the one thing we do know about autism during early childhood is that early behavioral interventions can improve quality of life outcomes.

Thank you for coming on. This quote caught my attention:

>The fact that more of the girls appear to have decreased in autism severity may be due to an increasing number of girls who have learned how to mask their symptoms.

What hypothesis exist to explain this gender disparity?

The gender disparity in autism prevalence is one of the big mysteries of autism since genes associated with autism risk are not generally located on the XY sex chromosome. There are a number of hypotheses out there for the disparity of prevalence.

One hypothesis is that the disparity is more apparent than real: That girls are better at masking/adapting to their symptoms, and thus more frequently escape diagnosis. The first step is to determine the extent to which this is true. If true, the underlying mechanism would need to be understood...some have suggested this could be related to greater inter-hemispheric connectivity in girls.

I think that question is, why are girls better at masking/adapting symptoms? Regardless of whether autism is more prevalent in girls, what it is about being girl that makes you mask better.

There is significant pressure on girls to behave in a manner that an adult might (quieter, more sociable, smiling, tolerant of situations) and significant pressure not to behave in an outwardly or rowdy manner (stimming, being hyperactive, responding in upset at being overstimulated, responding to sensory displeasure by rejection, etc).

I thought that autistic cant be pressured away from symptoms?

I think the parent comment is trying to say that the symptoms can be 'pressured away' by pressuring the child into masking their symptoms.

I've always wondered about this one: symptoms of autism are closer to the expected behaviour of girls than that of boys.

I touched on this in a nearby comment, but: I think that works, but only for the somewhat milder symptoms.

It would seem to me that masking works to a point (towards the "highly functioning" side of the spectrum), and once you get to the ways in which autism blocks ability to perform certain common behaviours and activities (e.g. non-verbal), the gender percentages should get closer again, because there's no masking to hide them or social expectations that they match. Is this the case?

I've seen research that suggests that estrogen could mitigate symptoms of autism, which could also explain a gender difference:

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5193073/

- https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/estrogen-reverses-autism-l...

It should be noted that this research sample, as opposed to many autism samples, includes autism with non-verbal, and severe intellectual disability phenotypes of autism, phenotypes not always captured in neuroimaging research of adults due to compliance issues (We collect neuroimaging data while participants sleep in the scanner).

My hypothesis is that there's is a simpler, more-cultural answer, which is that girls with autism simply aren't diagnosed at the same rate that boys with autism are.

That is certainly one of the hypotheses in the mix. Personally, I think it accounts for some, but not all of the disparity.

Were there any correlations in this study between changes in severity of symptoms and therapies such as ABA?

This dataset did not include a controlled therapy intervention. Community therapy of a multitude of varieties probably occurred.

What if all children start off as autistic and gradually develop situational and emotional awareness? Some never do.

If that is true, it must happen very early. Some two year olds are already extremely non-autistic.

Parents in the UK will some times describe a child as "flirty", it has nothing to do with sexuality - to head that one off. They have learnt, by only a few months old, to attract attention of adults by using facial expressions, coos, and such. They certainly seem to be the other end of the spectrum wrt commanding social interaction.

But I'd suspect it's more that most children have the capacity but a few just happen upon the formula early. Like we mostly have capacity to walk but some take 14 months then just get up and walk, whilst others are walking at 8 months when they can barely raise their heads; and others are crawling backwards, or shuffling on their bums because walking didn't click quite so quickly.

Myers-Briggs type theory suggests that there are 8 modes of cognition, and that we all develop one first and only later begin to develop the others. Even if you don't like the Myers-Briggs stuff, I think the idea that children all develop a specific way of thinking first, but that the one that develops first isn't the same for all children is insightful.

There's some evidence that points to reliable bio-markers in utero:



Such diagnostics raises troubling ethical concerns. I certainly know many on the spectrum that are perfectly fine with who they are, but if prospective parents had the ability to terminate based on some x% probability an unborn child might be 'mildly'/'moderately'/'severely' autistic...

Two years old is well past "very early" development stages.

What constitutes very early? 6 months? 2 months?

I would find that hard to believe given how severely autism impacts some people. Things like being non-verbal, or extremely sensitive to noise, don't seem to be things you can just learn as a child to avoid.

And if the only difference was in childhood learning, you would expect that people with asbergers would be able to learn at least some of that situational awareness later in life. Based on people I know with asbergers, for many of them that is not the case - they never get even close to having intuition about social situations, they just end up memorizing rules and applying them when they seem to fit. Rather than intuitively knowing someone is angry/sad/etc. they use the rules they have memorized to make that determination. It is a completely different way of thinking. Of course this doesn't apply to everyone with autism (it is an extremely diverse disorder) but I think it shows that there is a significant difference outside of just what was learned in childhood.

The problem with that paradigm is clinicians rely on speech and behavior from ages 1-3, looking for abnormalities. Hard to assess issues before 12 months, most kids don't speak much until after then.

Its prevalence is estimated at 1 in 54, by the way. I doubt researchers and experts are off by a factor of 50.

my son had a couple of very annoying years between 4-7 where he would seem behind compared to other kids on certain things such as motor skills and physical (hand/leg) coordination. he was also huge for his age, like trapped in a larger child's body.

when it was time to send him to school our neighbors who knew him (because he hung out with their kid) suggested to send him to an IQ test because they figured he might be highly intelligent ("same as their kid").

they believed that their own son was very bright too but I thought it's only because both parents were closer to 50 than to 20. their child also had no real children friends and mixed mostly with adults - hence also talked like an adult (and seemed smarter than average for that reason alone - he was total sh1t with being a kid though but he knew how to recite grown up books and read/write long before school ...)

anyway - bear with me, I promise to connect these things

eventually we sent our son to do an IQ test and it came back inconclusive. we were told to test him again in a years time. (he was a mixed kids growing up with 3 languages which might also have altered how he performed on the test). Long story short he had a difficult first year in school with the teachers telling us that either a) he is too smart and should be moved forward a class, or b) he needs to go to a special school because he is dumb, or c) he should probably be tested for both autism and ADD. We decided to do none of the above and give it another 2 years to see how it play out. Eventually he settled into his surrounding and turned out one of the best students in class.

another case: my best friend's kid is diagnosed with autism ("somewhere on the spectrum" they say). He is incredibly active for his age and more than other kids. His parents who are both very ill (ALS and MS) are used to seeing a doctor every few weeks to get injections, ... they have more exposure to doctors than to any other grown ups in their life, and meanwhile their friends are also all people who have "sick" kids. Whenever I play with the kid I think he is pretty normal, except for that he is a lot smarter than anyone else. Like a smart boy stuck in a smaller childs body.

Another example: my gf is a nurse and occupational therapist. she literally works with disabled kids who are on the spectrum, have down-syndrome, cerebral palsy (to name the most common problems). She says if somebody has autism you can sure as hell tell. There is no "maybe", or "somewhere on the spectrum"- yes some cases are milder but she thinks that some doctors just diagnose and presribe solutions for things they don't fully understand themselves.

could it be that a lot of these kids simply go through stages in their childhood at different speeds? like not every kid fits into our "systems-thinking" model and maybe totally grows out of it a year later? The horrid thing here is that the moment way start treating their behavior as a disease it has good potential to actually become one, ... which brings me to the last example.

I worked with a US company remote. we were all on Jitsi every day even we weren't meeting so the mgmt could keep tabs (this was the rule for some reason). The assistant to the CEO a mid 30ies lady insisted that her child had autism. She constants forgot to switch her mic to mute and I could see how she talked to that child. He would get regular slaps in the face and get screamed at - then he would be told to take his meds. Also I think they might have been on some deal where they get benefits because their kids was "disabled".

idk what to make of this but the whole medical profession seems like a racket to me. especially in the US (where this disease seems more of a fashion than anything) ... I hope these kids don't wake up one day and realize the crimes that have been committed against them.

I'm glad I put my foot down and not put my child on pills (just to put money in some idiotic Dr. med. pocket). I would have destroyed my child! (and I see what it's like whenever I look at my best friends kid!

I think you're lucky with your son. The meds and interventions are essential for some. End even then the progress isn't always visible. Speaking from a different experience than yours.

I disagree with a lot of what you've written.

Occupational therapists and nurses are not qualified to diagnose autism and there certainly is a "somewhere on the spectrum" vaguery to autistic symptoms. If I recall correctly only 15% of autistic people fall under the banner of "high support needs", these are the people who are obviously autistic. Many of these people also have another learning disability (undiagnosed or not) which obfuscates the severity of their autism somewhat.

The remaining 85% are much less obvious. A lot of these people aren't even aware that they're autistic. These are the people that are "somewhere on the spectrum" and they all have widely varying support needs.

My parents had no idea I was autistic, at no point did any school suggest an autism diagnosis. I left school with two C grades and nothing else, because I was struggling with undiagnosed autism and thus received zero support.

When you are in this situation it's gutwrenching. I had no inclination I was autistic at the time because I had that same false belief that autism is only the severe cases. So instead I assumed I was just incapable of doing the same things as other people. This caused severe depression and a lot of imposter syndrome.

You don't need to put your child on medication (there aren't any for autism anyway) but avoiding diagnosis seems reckless to me.

My parent's avoidance to diagnose lead to unnecessary hardship and horrible uncertainties, it was only through going to therapy at 26 (mandated by my workplace due to autistic symptoms) that I was eventially diagnosed. This is a common refrain, plenty of autistic people fall through the cracks and don't get diagnosed until well into adulthood.

> "Whenever I play with the kid I think he is pretty normal, except for that he is a lot smarter than anyone else. Like a smart boy stuck in a smaller childs body."

Classic sign of Asperger's syndrome. The rules for interacting with adults are clearly spelled out and consistent, requiring no intuition, unlike the rules for interacting with peers on the playground. So the child will seek out adults who take an interest in his school topics or special interests.

I've read recently that supplementing zinc and sulforaphane can help autism.

Is there any truth to that? Anyone have personal experience trying either?

n=1 obviously

I take a multivitamin with 15mg zinc in it, as far as I can tell none of the autism specific symptoms are affected. The biggest difference is that I feel sleepy in the afternoons when I take zinc, when I don't take it I feel more awake but less rested.

How do studies like this take regression to the mean into account? Seems like a hard problem.

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