We have all watched out takes from movies. The director yells action, and the film starts rolling. That is when the actors and actresses recite their memorized lines with passion and emotion. Where did the actors get their lines? We all know that a script is a series of lines that an actor says during a movie, television show, or play. These scripts take hours to memorize and perfect.
What if you had hundreds of scripts already memorized? What if you kept all these scripts filed away in the caverns of your brain, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice?
It may sound strange or impossible, but I have hundreds of scripts at the ready at any given time. These scripts range from the mundane everyday banter to sophisticated social interactions. You might be asking yourself why anyone would spend time accumulating that much information?
For a person with an autism spectrum disorder, scripts are a necessary survival tool for daily life (unless you never interact with anyone, ever). I started accumulating my scripts at an early age. Long before I knew that I was a card carrying member of the awesome autism club, I started rehearsing my lines. This was definitely not a conscious action on my part. I always knew that I was different, some might even say weird. Once I started school, I had to interact with the human race on a daily basis. Sure there wasn’t a lot of socially sophisticated conversations happening in kindergarten. That is where I learned the basics. Chit chat you might call it. Which brings up the point of small talk.
Small talk is a finely tuned skill. Many high functioning autistics loathe small talk. It induces anxiety for some. For others, myself included, it just seems pointless. Why would I want to talk about the weather when there are so many other interesting topics to converse about?
This can be problem in the real world. Most people do not jump into intense conversations immediately. That is why I have a number of small talk scripts in my brain file, for lack of a better word, at the ready for chit chat niceties.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not rude, I do enjoy conversations. However, I do script most of my small talk conversations. Fortunately, I have a myriad of scripts at the ready for various situations. I am almost 42 years old. I have had decades to collect my scripts. I have scripts for small talk, scripts for conversation starters, scripts for illness, family situations, work (you get the idea).
As many things as I have memorized, I do encounter situations where I have no script. These encounters cause severe panic. The first time someone told me a loved one had passed, I froze in sheer panic. I remember searching my brain for something to say. Nothing, nada, nil came to mind to assist me. I fumbled my way through this grave (no pun intended) task. Out of the embarrassment and lack of words, formed a new script. Now I had a script for the death of a loved one. I filed that script away in the depths of my brain. These scripts are of extreme importance to those of us on the spectrum. They provide security in a social world that is often foreign to us.They reduce fear at social gatherings that are already awkward for us.
Scripting is a necessary skill. As a parent of two daughters on the spectrum, we frequently discuss scripts. Children with autism need scripts. They bring comfort and routine in a socially complex world. Next time you encounter a person on the spectrum, remember how difficult small talk may be for them. Be patient, do not be surprised if her words sound canned. Most likely, the words you are hearing were rehearsed and put away for a later conversation.
How many scripts have you memorized lately?