Autistic People React to the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) – Part 3

A woman with a shirt that reads @NeuroClastic is talking, and from her mouth are tons of talk bubbles with various scribbles inside them. Talk bubbles are arranged in a rainbow roygbiv pattern. The woman is meant to symbolize an autistic woman on the autism spectrum.

Do autistic people talk too much about one thing? Is that favorite topic to talk about autism, perchance?

This is a series exploring the inner dialogue of autistic people as they take on questions from the most frequently used autism screening tool for adults, the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). For this series, I partnered with Terra Vance to interview autistic people about their internal dialogue as they respond to questions on the AQ.

Talk to Me About Choices

The choices are almost always, sometimes, rarely, and almost never— but the questions are so vague that the true answer is often, “It depends.” To read the rest of this series, click here for part 1 of this series which explains a little more about what we are doing, and click here for part 2, which features three questions from the AQ with answers from three different autistic people.

Most of this series will have 3-4 responses per article, but this one from ArtisticAutistic deserved its own stand-alone article.

The question: People often tell me that I keep going on and on about the same thing.

Oh gosh, yes! Family members have said almost exactly this to me. There are other times I’m doing the same thing and get similar responses (wordless understanding of this running in the background).

– “Are you going to talk about anything other than autism for the next four years?” (family member)
– “Are you still thinking about that?” (family member)
-“I don’t want to hear any more about autism.” (family member)
-“You already told me that.” (family member)The person who gave me this question is “on to me!” She must be really insightful or maybe it’s just coincidence. Did she look up my posts in a FB group?-“You always bring the conversation back to your favorite topic.” (family member)
-“I’ve heard this before from you.” (family member)

But not all people express this type of thing to me.

Ambiguity and Autism

How often is often? Am I overstating it if I select strongly agree? Maybe this doesn’t happen often enough by enough people, so maybe I’m just over-identifying with an autistic trait.

But, not everyone minds me talking on and on about things, so they don’t bring it up. This is true of most friends. Also, I know to mostly ask questions about the person and listen when I meet someone new and don’t talk on and on about my interests because I know most don’t want to hear about it.

[ Just deleted a paragraph because it’s too much, no one is going to want to read all that. I’m always deleting paragraphs and working to make things more concise when I write. This takes a lot of time, and it’s exhausting.

Is the “same thing” the same thing as the same thing?

What is even meant by the “same thing?” I think I have that covered. When I’m not masking, I do talk on and on about my favorite topics or if something captures my interests.

-“I’m bothered by you talking on and on…” (friend)
-“Stop talking” (physical therapist when I was describing the pattern in my symptoms month by month)
-“You JUST KEEP TALKING! Do you want to hear what I have to say or do you just want to hear yourself…” (acquaintance, paraphrased, later realized I had repeated the same thing three times within a short span of time)

Maybe it was really obvious to the person who gave me this question that I do talk on and on about the same thing. I mentally review all the texts we’ve exchanged and paragraphs deleted. (I think this is an autistic way of processing.) Oh, no, it was obvious! I hope I’m not really annoying!

-“No, wait. Let me tell you this.” (friend, interrupting me while I’m talking.)
-“Can I you tell you something?” (friend, interrupting while I’m talking.)
– “Can I tell you some of my thoughts?” (counselor, interrupting while I’m talking)

Wow, this is worse than I thought.

How many people are going to be reading my response to this question?

Are my friends annoyed with me, but just being polite by interrupting?

Do my friends know to tell me to stop talking?

I’ve actually recently told friends to let me know if I talk on and on and have been working on taking a pause where a paragraph would go. I appreciate when people interrupt me – it lets me know to stop talking. Sometimes I really don’t realize how long I’m going on and on about something that captures my attention.

I just now remembered a dinner I had 5 months ago with an acquaintance, and realize I monologued almost the entire time in response to a question asked to me. I feel really bad about this now. She was probably too polite to say anything.

Oh Gosh, Yes! I’m Autistic, and I go on and on about it!

My initial response of “Oh gosh, yes!” was a gut reaction! I don’t think I have too many of those. That is probably a very NT response.

In young adulthood, I would have answered this question “no” because no one had used the exact words of “you keep going on and on about the same thing,” but I talked just as much about my favorite topics then as I do now. Now, that is an autistic style of thinking.

Are people going to think those quotes from family members and others are another way of saying I go on and on about the same thing? Are they?

What I believe the question is trying to ask is do I talk on and on about the same thing (long or short term) to a degree greater than what would fall within average (or below) on a bell curve for this.

A Choiceless Choice

That is not easily measurable, but I do receive feedback expressing this sentiment from family, friends, and acquaintances. I’m also aware that I do this. I select “strongly agree.”


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2 Responses

  1. “The question: People often tell me that I keep going on and on about the same thing”

    I found this question* interesting, confusing and annoying in equal measure (*NB, this is a statement, not a question). My immediate response to it would be ‘almost never’: I don’t think anyone has every said to me that I keep going on and on about the same thing.

    But do I talk a lot? Yep.
    Do I interrupt a lot? Yep.
    Do I use a thousand words to try and explain something when ten would do? Yep.
    Do I give every last speck of detail when a short resume would be so much better? Yep.

    Is that perhaps what is meant by ‘going on and on about the same thing?’ It might be. But I don’t know.

    And what is meant by ‘the same thing’?

    In the past, I would have thought this meant a ‘special interest’. (To be far to Simon B-C, it doesn’t actually say that; I’ve simply learnt that monologuing about special interests is something autistics apparently do.) I don’t have special interests – at least not in the stereotyped way of being able to detail jet engine specifications of every single British Airways plane created, or of giving a running commentary on the history of composers of 17th Century Italian operas, or of being able to cite the hundred-plus different cleaning methods and substances to remove graffiti from public amenities.

    But I am *passionate* about so many things: British wildlife, especially minibeasts, word origins and specific epithets, autism (currently; ADHD, PDA and dyspraxia previously)… Do I go ‘on and on’ about these things? Well, I can do. Especially if nobody tells me to stop.

    And there’s the rub. If nobody tells me I do this (and in the UK, most people would be too polite to point this out), then how would I know?

    So no, Simon B-C, people don’t often tell me that I keep going on and on about the same thing…

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