Things Don’t Exist to Me Unless I Need Them (An Autistic Perspective)

Red-headed woman in a black coat about to cross a busy street, which is blurred out in the background. Text reads, "Things don't exist to me unless I need them"

I’m not sure if this is more an autistic thing or a “me” thing, but I don’t tend to register things in my brain unless I need them.

For example, I could pass by a restaurant on the way to a store I frequent hundreds of times, but if someone asked me where that restaurant is, I could honestly say I didn’t know (and be accused of lying, of course).

If I haven’t been in it, I don’t know about it. It simply ‘doesn’t exist’ to me.

It’s the same with a small kitchen tool or something else in the house. If I need the potato peeler, for example, I have to hunt for it with purpose even if I’ve passed it sitting on the counter for days.

It just doesn’t register.

My theory is that my brain filters out any visual information that isn’t 100% necessary at any given moment, so I don’t collapse from the daily strain of visual sensory overload.

Filtering is much more difficult with sounds. Those I’m very sensitive to, but when there a lot of visual things, they all start blending together, and I can’t easily pick out the individual item.

It’s just one big mass.

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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:

Back to the finding places thing for a second, I’ll have to GPS a place down the street from my house if I’ve never driven to it before, even if I’ve been to the place next door.

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