Teasing: Bonding for Non-Autistic People, Torture for Most Autistics

Young couple, male and female, posing for a photo. The woman is smiling and pretending she's going to pull the man down to the ground. The man is also smiling but looks (at least to me) mildly uncomfortable. Text reads, "Teasing: Bonding for non-autistic people, torture for autistics".

Teasing: I was having an in-depth discussion with someone several months ago about teasing, and he told me something I don’t think I fully understood until that moment; teasing is a way non-autistic people bond with each other!

Maybe that’s not a shock to you, but it was to me. I always thought it was a way that non-autistics established pecking order and dominance in a socially acceptable way while also making people laugh to lighten the tension of such a process.

Although I do understand teasing and do it myself now, it took me a very long time to get it right. I used to try to follow the crowd with teasing, but no matter what others said, my attempts just didn’t “land” and were off-topic, or a bit too far, or just said in the wrong tone.

Truth be told, I tend to joke around like a 13-year-old boy; a lot of bodily functions and “that’s what she said” innuendo and double entendre.

I also use sarcasm quite a bit, and love coming out with a straight-faced and unexpected puns or play on words. It cracks people up all the time.

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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:

But that’s the extent of it, and, from what I understand, there’s a lot more to teasing than that.

Also, I think I might be in the minority even with the joking, sarcasm, and puns. Many autistic people don’t use them or even understand the point of them at all, and that’s fine.

For those people who can’t make sense of teasing and, worse, are deeply hurt and triggered by it.

Teasing, this common bonding ritual among non-autistics can be very confusing and painful to endure for those on the spectrum.

I was like this when I was younger. People had to explain the concept of teasing to me over and over and explain what they meant over and over because I took everything literally.

I remember talking about it in therapy years ago and trying to explain how I experienced it as a child. I said, “People did this weird thing where they pretended to feel emotions they didn’t feel.”

For example, someone would frown in an exaggerated way and say, “I’m really mad at you”, and I would take it literally and panic and start crying, and, most of the time, they would then actually get mad at me because I had responded in the “wrong” way instead of laughing or bantering back.

(I didn’t know they were bantering. I thought I was in danger!)

I think the worst part about teasing is that it has such totally opposite effects on both neurotypes.

So, if a non-autistic person meets an autistic person and starts teasing and bantering with them, the non-autistic person will think they are including them, while the autistic person will wonder why they are being mistreated!

This can lead to explosive arguments and deep confusion and hurt on both sides.

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