Black and White Thinking and the Autistic Mind

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For many autistic people, opinions can be genuinely seen as facts.

Because of our black-and-white, all-or-nothing way of thinking, an autistic person can see our opinions as cold, hard facts.

For example, let’s take an orange, polka-dotted dress. Let’s say this thing, by most people’s standards, is downright hideous.

The color is brash and loud, the proportions are all wrong, and the pattern looks like it was painted on by a drunk monkey.

Most people who have seen it or dared try it on don’t like it.

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The best way to improve communication with your autistic loved one is to understand how your autistic loved one’s mind works! Intentions, motivations, and personal expressions (facial expressions or lack thereof, body language, etc.), are often quite different in autistic people than they are in neurotypical people.

Experience a better understanding of your autistic loved one by reading books about life from an autistic perspective as well as stories that feature autistic characters. You’ll have so many “Ah ha!” moments and start seeing your autistic loved one in a different light (and you’ll have a better understanding of their behaviors, which you may have been misinterpreting up until now).

Books I recommend for a better understanding of your autistic loved one:



For a non-autistic person, however, there might be a little wiggle room in this way of thinking. (Even an autistic person with a unique sense of style might be intrigued by it.)

But, for many autistic people, the very EXISTENCE of the dress is offensive! Because it’s not just a piece of clothing, it’s an affront to order, predictably, and sensibleness.

Why was this thing made? Is it a joke? Is it a trick of some kind? Surely, nobody in their right mind would create such an horrific monstrosity and expect another person to pay money to own it!

Something doesn’t make sense, doesn’t add up, doesn’t fit into what our brains know as “rules”. Opinions, ideas, thoughts, feelings, and even superstitions can all become concrete FACTS in our brains.

I can’t explain scientifically why that is, but it happens to many of us.

I’ll give you examples of some opinions I had that I thought had to be facts, and it practically turned my world upside down when I found out others truly and vehemently felt the opposite.

1) Nobody would wear what looks like a garbage bag and a hat that looks like a trash lid or a dress that looks like a splotch of whipped cream with a banana-shaped purse in public. That HAD to be a joke, right? What am I talking about? Fashion shows. Once I understood the concept of “wearable art”, though, those kinds of fashions made a bit more sense to me. And art, by its very nature, is subjective.

2) Nobody with even a thimbleful of imagination and self-respect would EVER watch reality TV. It was stupid, painfully pointless, and everything that was wrong with the world. (That was before I got into “Breaking Amish”. 😄😄😄)

There are definitely more, but the thing is, I didn’t think these things out of arrogance. I genuinely believed what I thought, and I couldn’t even conceptualize thinking a different way…until I did.

Trying to see things from the point of view of someone who is not autistic can be very hard for me. Not completely impossible, but hard.

I think it all goes back to feeling tricked about these things that don’t fit the patterns, values, thoughts, and ideas in our minds. We feel betrayed by them almost, because they don’t make sense to us.

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2 Responses

  1. Kris Erskine says:

    Remember the black and blue dress that also looked white and gold? We had endless family arguments about it but the only person who completely melted down and lost their temper repeatedly was the child who eventually was assessed at being on the spectrum. Your articles are making so much clear to me. Thank you.

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