Sensory loss, neurodiversity, and the importance of other peoples’ perceptions

A mouthful of a title for this post, isn’t it? With the sensory loss I mean primarily sight, but based on what I’ve read and heard and learned from others, part of them could be applicable to also hearing. And neurodiversity can range from anywhere on the autistic spectrum to other similar conditions. With perception I mean here how other people perceive you; what they make out of you based on what they see, hear, think.

I’ll start with that perception as that should be the starting point. Unless you live completely by yourself, devoid of other humans, you will be seen, heard, and otherwise perceived by people no matter where you are. Sometimes it would be nice to be in a dark world where what you wear didn’t matter and where people didn’t make their guesses based on what you look like and what you wear, but this is, for the better or the worse, a sighted world. Whatever you wear will influence what people think of you. Wear a white doctor’s coat and you will be perceived as a doctor, or wear a law enforcement uniform and you’ll be perceived to have authority and so on. And not just uniforms; it matters on the private time too. There are many days when I’d love to just wear dark grays and blacks and not care if my clothes are full of cat fur, but I avoid doing that. So wear different colors, different kinds of pants and dresses and outfits, not just repetitions of the same thing in different colors. Pick items and colors that you like and it’ll also be partially for your benefit, but on my thinking it’s more and more for silent communication to the others. While I was born with the female bits, I apparently missed the unwritten memo that tells as a female I’m supposed to dress for other females – I’m not talking about that here. Just perception. Fashion doesn’t necessarily matter. People will see what you wear; pick fashionability if you like, or if you have sensory sensitivities (like I do), pick comfort. Either will do. But then it’s about the details. Make sure your clothes are clean, don’t have stains, rips, tears or other visible imperfections. If you’ve got less than perfect sight, maybe wear even fancier clothes. Because you should learn to feel good in different clothes, and also the clothes can be something for the others to comment on. A black t-shirt, soft jeans, and plain, soft shoes, hoodie, dark shades and headphones would fit my comfort clothing idea perfectly – but it can feel so weird. I don’t know what to say to others, and if I look like I know where I’m going, I stay completely invisible to others. So very weird. So pick something that can be commented on. Pick nice colors, nice textures, funny texts, themes that you like… anything.

The same can go with neurodiversity a long way. Wear soft things if they are comfortable. Wear shirts with aviation theme if you like planes, or wear puppies if you like dogs and so on. As an aspie, I was always pretty bad in noticing differences in peoples’ appearances (new haircut, new clothes, or if someone was nine months pregnant, small little details like those)… So in other words: wear clothes just so others can perceive you the way you want to be perceived. Fashionable, professional, classical – your pick. It’s frustrating but no matter what you do or wear, people will still perceive you some way and judge you accordingly. So might as well learn to use that to your advantage.

More tips for perception: smile. Use tone of voices when you speak. Project the air you want to be perceived. Again, this probably might sound weird or redundant to most, but I really didn’t care much about using or deciphering emotional contents or connotations in voice. But others do. Neurotypicals (people without autistic traits) especially. Even when you talk to your typical voice, and don’t intend to communicate anything emotionally, they will assume and try to interpret and read between the lines. If your typical voice sounds flat, that can mean that some people will assume you are depressed, especially if you don’t smile a lot (and happen to be a person with femaleness, so both more emotionally charged voice when speaking and also constant smiling are expected behaviors). So their incorrect interpretations will result in incorrect perception about you. See where this can go catastrophically wrong? Job interviews, dates, when visiting medical doctors or any healthcare providers, when just trying to perform in your job…

So be presentable just so others can perceive  you more as you want. For many this is automatic, so wear fancy designer clothes or brands, or wear pretentious smelly profumes. For others it’s less obvious. But while living in a sighted, neurotypical world – dress for the others. Look and smell clean (and not too stinky), smile, project the emotional range you want others to hear.

At least this made sense while walking around wearing a white t-shirt, and holding a coffee and a mocca square on my hand.

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