update: this question is about not pushing me harder for indirect hints. it's not exactly on sensory issue

I'm on the autism spectrum.

In a particular classroom, a gang of people started to get bewildered at the fact that I was missing most of the indirect hints they constantly use; that include "white lies" everyone claimed to understand as false/joke/sarcasm except me. I disclosed ( * ) my diagnosis to them yet they keep scolding me for not understanding indirect hint from authority figures, for not understanding hints or contexts on what is the expected action from me.

These include

  • Telling me to do something repeatedly while actually meaning not to do it.
  • Pretending to offer me help yet expecting that I'll refuse the help.
  • Indirectly expecting me to leave the place or communication. After I fail to pick that up, they then accuse me of some unexplained fault
  • Why my interpretation to the authority figure (teacher's) instruction do not match with the conformity's guesswork of it.

Their argument mostly is, they think I haven't "had not enough life experiences", and they also think all that I need is to "just try a little bit more harder". They do not understand I already had enough of life experiences and I had a prolonged undiagnosed period.

They also declared, somewhat explicitly, that while they joke at me they do not want to see from my perspective, they only want to see from their perspective. They explicitly told they were thinking my problems solely belong to myself, and they will keep treating me as an annoying element.

All these highly educated students belonged to very reputed research institute. I simply failed to explain to them that I can't just "try it harder". I have not any "clue" to how to try it, and that is a perplexing situation. Also I I try a lot from childhood but I have no idea how to try, and these are unnecessary stress.


I could ignore them but I wished to explain to them so that they don't do these upon someone else. I completely failed to explain. So, how should I have been explaining them the issue?

What I tried to do so far

I tried to disclose (*) by: I simply said I can't understand these because I have ASD. (I do not recall exactly what I said and exactly what was my voice tone) they were trying to divert from the point. I felt like they were resisting detailed discussion.

So, I later WhatsApp them individually about what is ASD and how it affects. However, they kept doing their naturally indirect communication, ignoring, getting angry, etc.


3 Answers 3


Not everyone in your classroom is your friend. They may not want the best for you, they may not want you to be happy. They may be enjoying your confusion and discomfort, and having a big laugh when you do "the wrong thing".

My advice, and this comes from a childhood of relentless teasing and bullying in school, is to stop listening to this group and trying to understand them, or trying to decide what to do based on what they say. There is a teacher. There are other students who probably won't be deliberately trying to confuse you. You are under no obligation to fix the people who don't know how to talk to you.

Eventually, you will want to be able to help those who, with good faith and good intentions, want to give you useful advice and suggestions. Some of the suggestions in other answers, and in the answer to the suggested duplicate, are good for that. When you are dealing with people you choose to spend time with, that's a great idea. But at school, in classrooms, you're often put in with people who are not your friends and are never going to be. So keep in mind that that not everyone deserves that education or needs to be fixed. If you pay no attention to what they tell you to do or say, you won't need to spend any energy figuring out if they are lying, hinting, being indirect or otherwise communicating in a way that doesn't work for you. You also won't risk doing something "wrong" for no reason other than their entertainment.

If they in fact would like to help you, this approach will actually lead to better understanding on their part. Imagine they say "throw it! throw it!" and then when you do (and get in trouble) they laugh and say everyone knows that "throw it!" means don't throw it. Now imagine they are saying "throw it!" and you ignore them, and make your own decision about what to do. You don't reply to them, you don't throw anything. They say "hey! Why didn't you throw it when we said to?" and you say "I find you really hard to understand because you often speak indirectly or sarcastically, so I'm not going to listen to things I can't understand." If they were just teasing you for fun, you took the fun away and they might stop. If they actually want the best for you, they will have to adjust their communication style to one that works for you. Either way, not reacting to the confusing, indirect, saracastic, white-lying communication will lead to a better outcome.


I don't think you ever have enough life experience; for different situations the "enough" could vary wildly. Plus I think you can always learn from every situation you encounter.

I am pointing this out only because you are setting yourself in an antagonistic position to what they are saying. In this case, maybe if you deal with them "enough" times you may learn how to handle them better. Now, enough could be a huge amount of times.

However what bothers me is that:

They also declared, somewhat explicitly, that while they joke at me they do not want to see from my perspective, they only want to see from their perspective. They explicitly told they were thinking my problems solely belong to myself, and they will keep treating me as an annoying element.

That is such an odd thing to say, so I think maybe there was a huge misunderstanding, and they failed to understand you, or you failed to understand them. If everyone understood everything, then they are being kinda mean, and you may never be able to make them understand you, because they don't want to.

Chose your battles. How long are you going to be with these people? If it is a short period of time, just put up with it and don't worry. If it is for a long time, then something needs to be done.

I am not on the spectrum, or at least I have never been diagnosed. But what you describe happens a lot to me. I have a tendency not to get jokes, or take things literally when they are meant figuratively, and so on. So I always have to deal with people teasing me about my cluelessness.

I think it can be endearing to be this clueless, and the good natured people I met in general felt it was cute. It can also be taxing for them sometimes, if you never seem to get what they mean, but if they know you don't do it on purpose they shouldn't take offense.

However, it is true that if you encounter a situation enough times, you may learn to deal with it appropriately. So I always keep in my mind "cases of study". Any time I don't understand a situation, I try to correlate to others and see what I was supposed to do and why. I will explain further below.

First of all, if they don't understand you, it is really their fault, they say you don't have enough life experience, so you don't understand them, well to me it is clear they don't have enough life experience dealing with people different than them, or at least noticing not everyone is the same, because as I said, I am not on the spectrum and this happens to me a lot, and I have seen many people that are not on the spectrum and have the same experience.

Don't feel attacked by what they say, it is their problem, is in their side of the court, they don't know how to deal with anyone that is not just exactly like them. Even if they think they know, thinking you know it is not the same as actually knowing.

So, if you have to deal with this situation because you are going to be with them for an extended period of time, you need a multi-step not completely direct approach.

First, I assume you already told them in a very clear way you have ASD. If you haven't, do it. Tell them, guys I think with all these situations when I didn't understand things and you thought I was mocking you or whatever, I just want to let you know that I have ASD and I went many years without a diagnosis so it is really hard for me to understand these things and I don't do it on purpose to annoy you in any way and it actually causes me pain to be so confused at times.

Second, each time something happens, just laugh it up, and ask, in that specific moment what it is that you didn't understand. But don't pursue it too much, don't send them messages or anything, let it slide. Adults are a lot like toddlers sometimes, if a toddler does something "bad" you have to tell them or do something about it right away, if you ask later, or you insist for too much time, well they don't get it or get the wrong signal. Here is when you open one of those "cases of study" I mentioned. You know what they said, and how you understood it, you ask them how you were supposed to understand it, and why. If you don't understand it right away, don't worry, maybe you will, maybe you won't. The point is that they see you make an effort to understand them.

If they see you making an effort to understand them, then they may make, in return, more of an effort to understand you. Like a quid pro quo. Humans have a tendency to act that way, if someone is nice to them, they tend to be nice to that someone.

I have the feeling that maybe they think you don't care to understand them, or to be more like them. I know that is just ridiculous, but that is how many people feel in this situation. Believe me, I have had people telling me such things right at my face.

Third, from time to time, when you are sharing stories, during lunch, or whatever, tell them similar situations you have experienced with other people. Just the one, once in a while: don't tell them a bunch, because they could think you are complaining to them in an indirect way. Like say "the other time this happened to me, and I wound up having to pay this much more money". Or whatever thing that happened to you that had a negative impact because you didn't understand the hints or indirection or whatever. And you can take the opportunity to ask them for advice, or just tell it like a funny story. "Silly me making a mistake".

Don't ever think that because someone is not on the spectrum they get all the subtle clues and hints. No one does, that is why so many people make silly mistakes. Otherwise, dating world would be easy, if everyone understood every single hint and nuance. And it is not! Just show them you don't take yourself so seriously and you understand that everyone makes mistakes.

Fourth, this is something I do a lot. As I said, I don't always get when someone is saying something for real or not. So whenever someone asks me something, I paraphrase them in a summarized way, I say something like "you want me to do this and that, by X time. Correct?".

If I feel that what they are asking me is something odd, I ask them again:

Are you sure you want me to do this? Remember that I don't know how to tell when someone is teasing me, so if you insist I will do it, but please don't tease me further because it is very taxing for me.

I actually have said something similar to friends, and they say "yes", or tell me "nah I am kidding". Everyone can take a little bit of joking, but when you make it clear in that moment that it is making you feel bad not knowing if they are serious or not, people usually stop.

Don't take it the wrong way from them; it means they are integrating you, since in general people tease each other when they get along.

If they said "yes" but really didn't want you to do it, and you did it, if they complain, you just tell them:

I told you I didn't understand if you were joking or not, and you insisted you were not joking, I am sorry but this one is on you.

This way you are taking the responsability to their side. You made clear in that specific moment what you understood and what you were going to do. If they didn't change what they were saying, well it is clearly their fault. If the traffic light is red and you cross anyway, it is not the fault of the traffic light, it was telling you clearly "do not cross".

Fifth, if they say something that it makes you feel like they are insulting you. Tell then:

I am sorry, you know how I find it hard to understand these things, are you actually insulting me "telling me x and x", or is just a joke? Could you explain it to me?.

Avoid antagonizing them.

It is clear you are in a delicate situation here. For whatever reason they are antagonizing you, whether because they misunderstood things you did or said, or because they are not really that empathetic in general. Telling them right to their face "I am this way and you should understand" won't change your current situation.

I know it is not fair, but people act this way sometimes, and as I said you can chose your battles, let them be or try to approach them in the inderect steps I told you.

I understand the feeling to want to make them see, but people change when they want to change, and you can not make them change. That is why my steps are "friendlier": they are meant to make them see how you really feel, and how you are trying. The steps are supposed to help make them more empathetic towards you and then maybe they will want to learn.

However if at some point they come of as really attacking you, ask them:

How would you feel if you had a son or a daughter with ASD and she was being treated like you are treating me now?.

But save that just for something extreme, like people yelling at you or insulting you. Beucase as you are aware, you don't always understand the social cues and something that you think is mean maybe for them is just a joke.

You may never fully understand all the cues and hints, but know that most people don't either, and you may learn some of them, but don't feel bad, accept and love yourself for who you are, and eventually you will find other people that will love you too for who you are.

  • Yeah i have bunch of other people who appreciates my artworks and finds my way of thinking to be trustworthy. I said it happened in a particular workplace and now it is over. I mentioned i could have been ignore them, i only cared to explain them because it seemed they will do these with anyone like me if they meet it in future.
    – user25380
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 2:32
  • I did not antagonise, at least at the initial phases of interaction. Each time I was trying to understand where were my faults and i was saying sorry without realising my faults. Even some people were saying that i should be sorry.
    – user25380
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 2:37
  • 1
    @AlwaysConfused I am sorry I misread what you said that you were not in contact with them anymore. It sounded like they were a bit mean. However, from experience, I have learned that a lot of things are open to interpretation, and when you thought you were being nice and apologizing, maybe they felt you were being passive-agressive, for example. That is why I say don't take it personal, human perception is so complex.
    – Mykazuki
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 10:49
  • 1
    @AlwaysConfused In general is better not to press too much at a time, some people may feel you are complaining, some that you are being passive-agressive, not that many people actually take the time to understand. In certains ways we are islandd, we are isolated from the world and interpret the best we can, and this is where a lot of the misunderstandings come from. I have witnessed "normal" people misunderstanding things many times, however, a main difference is that they let it go easier, the forget it like it never happened. I and probably you have a tendency to hung up on it more.
    – Mykazuki
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 10:54
  • 1
    @AlwaysConfused of course is always up to you to decide how much you will accomodate and be understanding with them. The important thing is to accept yourself and understand no one is perfect. I am glad you have people that supporst you and appreciates the way you are. I for one have been thought as and know I am a bit odd for such a long time, that I consider it a curious thing when people seem to like me or want to interact with me. I find it interesting how different people appreciates different things. Btw, thanks about the B.A.P, info, I didnt know about that.
    – Mykazuki
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 10:58

From the patient's side:

The ASD sufferer/ the common people who experience very few of ASD symptoms (also called B.A.P. or broader autism phenotype) needs a logical and rational explanation about complexity of human interaction. Suicidal ideation and high feeling of guilt/shame is quite common in ASD so its good to get support before disasters happen.

From the teammet/ coworkers side:

They will need to have a basic knowledge of the condition.

If possible, take help of metaphors like these:

Oh, you think people with mental illness can just snap out of it?

Why don't you go tell someone who is deaf to listen harder?

source: https://me.me/i/oh-you-think-people-with-mental-liness-can-just-snap-8efc350b95ad44c3bba73bde42d6d321

Or this:

meme depicting a deaf person trying really hard to listen but the person is failing to figure out where to invest the effort

Source: https://me.me/i/subtitles-music-deaf-people-invest-in-hearing-better-music-f6b0f625a6bc4318819238ed97ae39e8

However they may counterargue so if you have difficulty with metaphors, or you have a slow thinking speed, it is better to avoid metaphors.

Some of the counterarguement people commonly say is;

  1. They may perceive you are resisting to try their methods or solutions.

Its upon them but all what you can do is to tell once more that their method is being harmful to you.

  1. They may opinionate that disability/ difficulty is a bad/taboo word. Interestingly many nice people believes in this mindset.

In such situation, what you can do to tell them disability or difficulty is not a bad word. Instead of pretending to not have a difficulty, it is less stressful and morally comfortable to be able to openly talk about our difficulties and limits. You may also tell them that denying a difficulty does not remove the difficulty, it only make things hidden from public.

If they counterreact by telling accepting your problems and letting you to be you caused "secondary handicap" and "self fulfilling prophecy", explain them once again you met your problem first, not the dx. And before you were dxed, you went through long period of self improvisation (if applicable).

In the workplace try to find some advocates of you who appreciate you, and tell them your issues so that they can provide bystander intervention. Bystander intervention is a superpower.

After you convey all these knowledge, if things continue or seem to make you feel bullied, go for official complaints.

  • 2
    Complicating the problem, some kinds of mental illness can for some people be cured or counteracted by the individual. So it is not all high contrast black and white.
    – Stian
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 10:42
  • right, I just found the concept so i tried to credit the source. Nothing else. Would I delete this meme or my answer or certain portion of my answer?
    – user25380
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 15:14
  • 2
    Also its told that ASD and learning disabilities are not itself a mental ilness.
    – user25380
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 15:29

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