Do Autistic People Experience Time Differently Than Neurotypicals?

OK, this is a hypothesis, but I’m fairly convinced it’s true for many autistic people based on my experiences, studies, and conversations with others on the spectrum.

I truly believe that autistic people have a different concept of time from their neurotypical counterparts for the following reasons:

1) We don’t seem to have to “reconnect” with someone we’ve been out of touch with for a long time. We’ll just pick up where we left off as though nothing has changed!

2) We can suddenly understand a concept or the meaning of a phrase months or even years after someone tried to explain something, and when we have that “Aha!” moment, we will tell you very excitedly right away even though you’ll have NO idea what we are talking about or even why we REMEMBER what some NTs might consider a “trivial” exchange.

“That was a long time ago. Why are you bringing that up now?”

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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:

3) We will often be months or even years off about when an event occurred OR we will be startlingly exact. For example, we may genuinely think something happened years ago when only a few months have gone by, or think something happened a week ago that happened last year OR, we will be able to tell you that we went to a concert on April 18th, 1997, and somebody tripped and fell into the aisle at exactly 10:45 PM.

4) When we are absorbed in a task we are passionate about, we will not even realize the sun has gone down and we are now sitting in the dark! We may suddenly realize that we are hungry and thirsty and REALLY need to pee, but we literally don’t know where the time went!

I think there are others ways this manifests, too, and I think it can be a stumbling block in ND to NT communication in many ways.

Neurodiverse people, do you experience this? Neurotypical people, have you noticed the autistic person in your life appears to perceive time differently than you do?

Let’s discuss!

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4 Responses

  1. Nat Ford says:


  1. August 14, 2020

    […] move”. Part of that, I know, is due to my extremely poor memory and another part of it is that I have a different concept of time than most people. After something happens, I’m not entirely sure if it happened a week ago, a month ago, a […]

  2. August 18, 2020

    […] for the first time that it’s Friday night. (The fact that he works from home coupled with his autistic perception of time made him overlook this crucial fact when he agreed to meet Katie at a bar, and now it’s too […]

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