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Autistic nephew with one-track mind

Kalinychta

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
My autistic nephew struggles with cognitive empathy, and it often makes him very unpleasant to be around. He has a way of talking nonstop about subjects that interest him, even when the conversation has shifted to other topics, and doesn’t understand that his behavior is rude and that it bores and frustrates others.

For those of you who have the “intense, highly-fixated interests” trait and struggle with cognitive empathy, how do you think I can help my nephew understand that his behavior alienates people and makes them not want to be around him? He’s twelve.
 

Gerontius

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I'd probably start with telling him as much. But I'd think of how to phrase it.
See what he likes (sure he's already told you) and then put it maybe like this:
I understand you find these interesting.
Not everyone will find this topic as interesting as you do, and no matter how much you tell them about it, you still won't make everyone like it. Everyone is different, and we can't all like the same thing.
Interacting well with others is more important than (whatever it is), so even though this helps you, start learning to incorporate that better into conversations--even if that means leaving it out.
 

Misery

Photo-Negative
V.I.P Member
To be blunt about it: it's possible that you may not be able to.

Those sorts of interests are all-consuming. And it often feels not only difficult, but utterly pointless to interact with others when there are no shared interests. The constant rambling about an interest can be an attempt to create that shared link, and it can take awhile before one gives up.

Eventually, he may stop. But if so, he may simply withdraw and entirely avoid others.

While I myself can appear talkative and such on the forum here, even I have this trait. In person, I dont interact with, well... pretty much anyone. Family? Only the absolute closest will ever manage to get me into a conversation, and even then, only rarely. Others beyond immediate family? Nothing. Nothing at all. I simply dont experience any interest in interacting with them as I cannot see any purpose to it. They're not interested in what I'm into, and I couldnt give less of a fart about what they're into (which seems to be exactly 3 things for pretty much all of them: sports, politics, and pointless gossip).

With no shared connection of that type, conversation simply doesnt happen. What in the world would I talk about with them? They'll sometimes attempt "small talk" of course, but I dont understand the point of that silly ritual, so I'll just try to politely deflect it and then wander off.

There CAN be exceptions to this rule, of course. Even now there are a couple of exceptions beyond immediate family. But they are very rare.

This is all just based on my own experience with this, mind you. The exact nature of it may not be quite the same with your nephew.

It's certainly worth a try at least, I guess, just dont get your hopes up too much, is what I'm saying.
 

Neonatal RRT

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
In my experience, this has to be taught and then incorporated into his thinking,...his self-awareness,...his inner monologue. He has to see some inherent value in it, as well,...or else he may disregard it, get angry, or depressed,...it depends upon how it is presented to him and what his personality traits are. The other part,...he's 12,...a child with big ideas, a big attitude, doesn't know what to do about his rising testosterone levels, and a rather "black and white" view of his world.
 

Shillelagh

Wait... What?
I agree with the others. That was a big problem I had when I was young. I needed it pointed out to me. It didn't happen overnight, but I did get a lot better at not doing it.
 

AprilR

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I don't know, my father does this often and it doesn't bother me as in the past.

It's probably his way of communicating with the people he likes by sharing something that's important to him. If he didn't care about the other person he wouldn't talk about it.

I myself never talk about my interests with anyone bc i don't want to bore them and as a result i have 0 people in my life i feel close to. So idk what is the solution
 

Progster

Gone sideways to the sun
V.I.P Member
Does he notice that people don't want to talk about his special interests? I think perhaps not?

You could tell him that people aren't as interested in the special interest as he is, and would rather talk about something else. But even if he is aware that other people aren't interested, he might not be able to stop himself. He needs to control the urge/impulse to talk, that's not easy to do. He might in time realise that people are getting annoyed and learn to self-monitor.
 

Crossbreed

Neur-D Missionary ☝️
V.I.P Member
For those of you who have the “intense, highly-fixated interests” trait and struggle with cognitive empathy, how do you think I can help my nephew understand that his behavior alienates people and makes them not want to be around him? He’s twelve.
In my ASD2 [34yo] son's case, he has a co-morbid of OCD.
 

mw2530

Well-Known Member
It is likely that his special interests are what gives him some purpose and belonging in the world. Also likely that engaging in his special interest or interests are some of the few times in which he feel comfortable. I'm not sure what cognitive empathy means. But maybe some of that directed towards him would go a long way.

My father who is over 70 years old still rambles on and on regarding whatever his main topic of interest is at the time. It definitely gets old and I have trouble listening after a few minutes. Still not sure if he is aware of what he is doing or how he comes across. Help for him was never available when he was younger so while I get annoyed, I do feel like he has gotten short changed by society. But many of us on the spectrum probably have as well. Perhaps us on the spectrum would loosen their grip on their special interests to some extent if other people tried to come to them and try to understand things from their perspective. But rarely do NT's do this. Often times us on the spectrum hold tightly to a special interest because it can be the only thing we have. If we lose that, then often times a low quality of life is reduced even more.
 

Ronald Zeeman

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
If your nephew is any thing like me, he is probably bright , has no interest in small talk in other words to him you are boring. As he gets older interests will grow, he will meet other more of his peers usually in college. and then he become the life of the party has interesting opinion on subjects of significance.
 

Qoyote

Well-Known Member
I think Misery's right and I think this is about him accepting small talk is all he can get out of most people. Then he won't waste his emotional energy on people he's not compatible with. I mean if they won't engage with his hobbies at all would they be interesting to him either? He's not missing much. (I know that sounds like a bad outlook but that's really how it can be).

In my life the people who listen to me ramble usually mesh with my personality too (kind, naturally curious), so "listens but wrong personality" hasn't been an issue. Maybe it has for some people, I don't know.

When I made a friend I could talk about these things with it got way easier to deal with. Then it went from "why doesn't anyone like me, why don't I get to have connections, I'm a piece of ****" to "some people like it, some people don't". It doesn't have to be in real life. Like Misery said there CAN be rare exceptions and if he has faith that they exist life will be easier and it won't be so frustrating to self-monitor.

I'll warn him though, if they let him ramble they're probably ramblers too (who know how intense interests feel and how it sucks when no one wants to hear them, so we're indulgent with each other). It has to be back and forth.
 

GrownupGirl

Tempermental Artist
V.I.P Member
When I was in my teens and most of my young adult years I would have this problem. Not everyone wanted to hear me talk about my favorite moments from cartoons or video games, but I just couldn't seem to help not talk about them. But after I was diagnosed with Asperger's I gradually got "better". I often feel embarrassed and full of cringe about talking forever about such things at all even though my mother *now* says it's okay. I think the high anxiety I had at the time might have been partly the reason. Talking about my interests helped me to feel calmer somewhat. I don't know if that helps with the nephew I just thought maybe it would help seeing things from an ND's point of view.

Of course, it's perfectly okay for NTs to talk about their "normal" interests even if we're not interested, and then they call us rude because of that as well. We just can't win.
 

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