Alex Lowery speaks about autism

Imagine studying a language that you just can’t learn

Written on 26th Aug 2016 by Sylvia Lowery

Imagine you are moved to a new country and you have to learn a new language. You want to get to grips with the lingo and try to get a book to teach you the language.

Alex says, 'I almost forget that people use body language. For a long time I didn't realise it was a part of communication.'

Alex says, ‘I almost forget that people use body language. For a long time I didn’t realise it was a part of communication.’

You walk into the book shop to try and get a suitable book. The shop assistant start to speak in a language you struggle to understand. You give up and search the shop yourself. As you scan the shelves you feel overwhelmed there is nothing in your language. You leave the shop and go to the library. You sit down and shrug, how can you learn this language? It just so happens that there are some computers in the library. You google how to speak this language. People seem to say they weren’t taught this language, they just picked it up as children. It’s not taught in a formal way, you can learn certain words but these words can mean a lot of different things depending on the other words that are used with them. You need the full language to be able to use these learned words. You shake your head and leave the library. As try to copy the words that people are using people think you are strange, some accuse you of being rude. They say that you are just not trying hard enough. Some people ignore you and others laugh at you. You are trying so hard to understand this language but the people who speak the language think you should know how to use it because they learnt it automatically. You feel cut off from other people, you lose trust, you feel like you don’t belong. You are trying so hard but it makes little difference.

This is a made up scenario’s but this is how it feels to be autistic.

Alex says,  “I cannot read body language at all, other people seem to automatically notice body language and automatically know what it means. I am like, how on earth do they do that? Body language doesn’t exist in my world. I was taught set gestures but that doesn’t seem to work in real life. People seem to know what someone is thinking by a move of the eyebrow or a twitch. I just can’t read it, I just don’t know how it happens. You don’t learn body language in school, there are not reading body language classes, people just say they just knew.  When I misread something I feel embarrassed and ashamed. When I make a mistake and I think everyone is judging me I think not being able to read what people are thinking makes it worse. I am just making predictions but I can’t see how people are feeling.”

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Organisations Alex has worked with

  • Autism Cymru
  • Chester University
  • Glyndwr University
  • National Autistic Society
  • St John's Ambulance
  • Welsh Government

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