I keep asking myself this question since yesterday evening and my answer is: being autistic I most likely was, but I don’t remember. Not even that I don’t want to remember, I really don’t. I believe I’m not like that at all since I realised I’m autistic, as I try to make an effort to see situation from another person perspective, but I guess only the people who deal with me could really answer this question.
It is often said that autistic females behave like social chameleons as they try to imitate behaviour and mannerism of people who they are with. I really wish to know how this works as it’s not what I ever did. Or at least I wasn’t aware. Before my diagnosis I used to behave in a way that was the opposite to how the person I was with behaved. So for example if I was around someone who is happy-go-lucky, I’d be worried a lot. If I was around someone who would get irritated a lot, I’d be calm. So if I was tactless, that was most likely to happen when I was with somebody very diplomatic, which then would make my tactless comments stand out even more. This is how I see it today, but I really don’t remember situations like that, and anyway, at the time I probably saw myself as someone who has a mission to deliver the truth as the diplomatic person wasn’t able to do that.
So I had this situation at work yesterday: I was paired with a permanent staff who was very pleasant to work with but also quite direct. Not too much direct but just right. I also managed to speak with some other people briefly and I found out that meals are prepared in the kitchen on a different floor and they then get delivered to every floor in a kitchen lift, then one of the permanent carers would dish them out in a small kitchenette from where we would take them to residents’ rooms.
After dinner I was asked to collect all the dishes on a trolley, which I did and as I was going back to the kitchenette, another staff member spoke to me in extremely direct manner. Where are you going, she asked. We had a brief conversation where I found out that after collecting the dishes they need to be sent back to the kitchen in the lift. How was I supposed to know? I thought meals get prepared in the kitchen but dishwashers are in the kitchenette. It wasn’t impossible, was it? Anyway, that employee, let’s call her employee X, was very loud and overly dramatic over my mistake. I found it really uncomfortable.
Towards the end of the shift I was told to be around and answer the buzzer, if it rings, while the lady who I was paired with when off to deal with some other tasks. A bit later the employee X came up to me and asked to be ‘on the floor’ which in the care setting means ‘be around and deal with whatever happens’ but as the care home where I worked permanently was a completely different setting, where residents didn’t need buzzers because they could walk, I asked: do you mean answer the buzzer?
I asked that question to clarify and to avoid misunderstandings. I don’t think I did anything wrong, did I? We should be clarifying things. Especially when we work in a new setting or with people who don’t speak good English. And anyway, around an hour ago I was told off by the same employee for not asking a question that didn’t even come to my mind. So it was better to ask, wasn’t it?
‘Yes’ – the employee X said. And as she walked off I’ve heard her saying to somebody: Guess what? She doesn’t even know what ‘being in the floor’ means.
That got me quite upset and I had this idea to find her later when no one is around and tell her that it was very unkind of her to comment on me like that. I decided, however, that it’s probably not worth it. If X was so tactless, she wouldn’t probably even understand.
I also wondered if being tactless always means being autistic? Possibly some neurotypical people are also tactless? Possibly X uses all her tact on dealing with residents, permanent staff and families and she just didn’t have any patience left on me, a new person from an agency who may not even come back. I wonder though if a neurotypical person would be less likely to experience the reaction I got?
From what I remember about agency staff when I was permanent is that they often get treated this way only because everyone is fed up of having new people all the time.
Still it’s a bit sad to think that whether I ask questions or not, I get treated the same way: like if I was daft.
I keep trying to remember if I ever behaved the exact same way and I do not know. I really hope that means I didn’t but if I did, please don’t remind me. I really know now I have to be aware of it.