This title could be taken as if I'm talking about an interruption as if it were to be an interruption akin to being talked over but that’s not the interruption I’m talking about. For myself an interruption, as defined in this post, is any time I’m doing one activity and by any means get forced to go onto another. This could be something major such as a fire alarm but with minor events there may be a major misunderstanding in the way I respond.
For those that know me you will know that, when you say my name when I’m in the midst of something, I’ll give a response of, “WHAT?” It sounds as if I’m angry but here’s the thing; I’m not angry at you but rather I’m flooded with emotions of what to do and confused as to why the proverbial train stopped. Proverbial train… Let’s run with that…
Let’s take the Shinkansen, better known as the bullet trains of Japan. They’re known for their efficiency and high speeds and let’s say you’re on an express train from Tokyo to Osaka. This, being an express train, has no stops between Tokyo and Osaka and when you’re on this train you’re expecting a quick journey. Let’s say, halfway through the trip, the train begins to slow and come to a stop at a station and the doors open. This isn’t supposed to be happening. There would be confusion among the passengers. Why did you stop? When will you be going again? Will you be stopping again? Of course the passengers will become irritated during this delay because it wasn’t planned for nor was it expected. This is what daily life with Asperger’s is like.
In any thing I do, when I am doing it, I am like that Shinkansen express train. I am hyper-focused on the goal and when an unexpected interruption occurs, even mildly, my response is like the passengers on that train example I gave.
I mean no ill-will when I give a response that sounds angry. I do know I sound angry and when I mention this aspect of the autism spectrum to teachers I often see, in unison, each person’s head nod in unison because this is something we share. It’s easy for us to have tunnel vision and only see what it is that we are focused on. When I was in school if I were working on a worksheet I’d get irritated at annoyed at any person that spoke to me. Why? Let’s go back to the train example. Let’s say the efficient Shinkansen wasn’t all that great at getting up to speed. Once up to speed all is well but getting up to speed is a challenge. That’s the way my brain is; once at speed I can focus with perfect clarity but that one interruption can bring about a complete change in ability to focus or achieve a task hence why the unsuspecting interrupter is going to get what sounds like an angry answer.
This post isn’t to say that interrupting a person on the autism spectrum should be avoided at all costs. Quite the contrary; this post is to highlight the reason why you might get a response of annoyance and that we aren’t truly angry at you, we may just be angry at how difficult it is for us to change speed, to adjust our attention, and our fear of being unable to once again achieve the speeds we had been going.