We Don’t Use Big Words to Show Off

School-age girl with long, blonde hair and red glasses in a grey suit jacket with text that reads, "We don't use big words to show off".

I don’t know how many autistic people this is a problem for, but I wanted to address it anyway.

I have always, since very early childhood, used big words. My vocabulary was both a blessing and a curse. It’s made me a great writer and helped me get through school when nothing else would have.

It also made me a laughing stock and a target by my peers. By the way, I never considered other children my “peers”. I never felt like a child, so I couldn’t identify with kids my own age at all, which certainly didn’t help matters.

But, the way I’m talking to you now? I’ve always talked this way. Blunt, direct, upfront, no concept of social hierarchy, totally on par with adults (good thing I am one now), and with all the college-level vocabulary you could shake a stick at.

Thing is, I don’t have a college degree. I’m not educated beyond some college classes. I don’t even know how or why I picked up my extensive vocabulary.

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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:

I was raised by my grandparents, and I read a lot, so that could account for some of the words and phrases I learned, but it mostly just came naturally to me.

I had absolutely no idea that I was speaking differently than anyone else, either. I couldn’t tell at all. I would just be mimicked, mocked, attacked, and ostracized, but nobody really explained why.

I do remember somebody asking me why I used big words all the time once, and I thought about it and said, “I don’t know the small words for the big words I use.”

And adults? Oh, yeah. They weren’t much better. They thought I was showing off and being rude and not knowing “my place”. I had no idea what any of that meant, either.

So, if you have a “little professor” in your life (what Hans Asperger called us ASD folks), we are just talking and trying to connect with you. Showing off or trying to be different is the furthest thing from our minds.

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2 Responses

  1. Brian Clarke says:

    For me, reading was better than school. School was chaotic and confusing and, very often painful. I actually learned very little in school.

    But … I read hundreds of books and kept them in the attic. Not because I wanted (or needed) to read them again, but because they’d taught me so much about people, language, and social expectations.

    I’ll always be grateful to my father for buying me a set of encyclopedia. It filled in so many gaps.

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