Interview with an autistic guy

Norm Julian
13 min readFeb 6, 2024

If you need to get around the paywall, you can read this story here.

I recently had the awesome experience of being an autism study subject. This entailed everything from an MRI to an EEG to Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which I’m pretty sure my brain decided to prioritize as an ability at the expense of pretty much everything else.

There was a more life-related interview part that I don’t want to forget about. So I figured I’d write out what I can remember, messy steam-of-consciousness style, in case someone needs to feel less alone or understand a loved one a bit better. Or maybe you’re just curious, which, selfishly, I’m very here for.

This will be a mixture of my real (but probably semi-embellished) words in the moment and some further retrospective enhancements, indicated as such in the text. Regardless of the accuracy of my memory, all feelings are preserved and genuine. So, without further ado, the unrefined ramblings of a bona fide, 31 year-old autistic man:

What was school like?

My words in the moment until noted otherwise (again: not exact, but a good gist):

Oh…hmm…uh.

(My eyes are on the wall to my right, not the interviewer’s. This remains true for most of the session.)

You know how people say, “I always knew I was different?” Well, that wasn’t me. I was always just off somewhere else. It didn’t occur to me that this was a concept, a concern, a fact about me.

Lunch was my absolute least favorite part of the day. But it wasn’t because I was worried nobody would sit with me. It was because I wanted to sit by myself, and I wanted this not to be an issue. I didn’t want anyone to approach me about doing this, which was so awkward and frustrating. It stressed me out that you couldn’t just sit alone without it being a thing, and I hated having to find a group each day to avoid attention.

Oh, there was one time — it was kinda funny, actually. I think it was my second grade teacher, I had made her mad for some reason (which is odd, because I was a very, very well-behaved kid in school and would have cried if I got into trouble of any kind) — but anyway, she was done with my sh** for some reason or another, and she very sarcastically said to the assistant teacher, “Well, now Little Norm is gonna go take a nap up in the loft” (the ‘loft’ being a neat wooden bunk-bed style structure in the corner of classroom…

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Norm Julian

Programmer by trade, Texpat, lover of multicolored things and sunflower seed butter