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Counselling and psychology

Info dumping versus collecting the strays

I came across a post yesterday by @unmaskedbyanna (IG) about ‘autistic info dumping’ and the differing ways that different people communicate. She commented that she finds other ways of communicating not as easy, and if people change the subject before she’s ready or ‘done’, she finds this difficult too.

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“…I also need to sort of finish talking about it and cover every aspect of the subject. It’s a bit as if I were a herding dog and my special interest is that flock of sheep that is to be herded in. My brain likes when things are in the right place, whether it’s clothes in the closet or emptying out everything I can about an interest.”

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Her post has been enormously enlightening for me, particularly the part about needing to finish, and the analogy about a flock of sheep needing to be herded in. For me what is interesting is that I have come across this dynamic too, but from the other side to her, the side of the person always (apparently) changing the conversation, and for me this isn’t necessarily a neurotypical thing, but an ADHD thing versus an ASD thing. Don’t get me wrong, I am know that I also info dump when I’m passionate about something, but I do it in a different way.

There are some people close to me (ASD) and when I talk to them, they can sometimes get upset with me for changing for subject and not listening – but in my head, I’m not changing the subject and I am absolutely listening with intensity – but in relation to the topic in question at the time, I’m finding its edges, its outer reaches – I might also cross a bridge or two, to another island, to see if there is anything relevant over there. I see it differently in that, “all these ‘different subjects’ are strands of the same one for me, but just exploring different off-shoots or angles.”

I listen to one of my kids info dump all the time – I understand it is important to them in our connection, and I happily listen…and when I can’t, I just say that my brain is really full or my ears are really tired and I just can’t take in more information or detail, so could we perhaps finish the conversation another time. @unmaskedbyanna made a similar suggestion as to how to end an info dump prematurely if it is too much for you, the listener, and that gave me enormous relief, as I often worried that my child might feel rejected when I just didn’t feel able to listen anymore.

I have found that I can’t stick to the topic in the way my ASD-style info-dumpers do, any more than they can communicate in my flitty travelly way. It takes so much of my energy to not speak, to not add to, to not (in their mind) change the subject. And this whole interaction, with two different and opposing styles of communicating, can be fraught with misunderstandings and trauma-triggers, due perhaps, to both sides having spent many years masking from opposite ends of what is considered acceptable.

Having read the post by @unmaskedbyanna, and having responded to her with my thoughts, I took the opportunity to speak with my ten-year-old last night, about her post and about my response, and his eyes lit up and he said, “Yes, that’s it.”  Except he took her words and re-explained them using a computer analogy. He also understood my way of communicating, this flitty travelly way of chattering. And he agreed that for him, my way of ending an info dump prematurely is an acceptable and non-hurtful way to express my needs when I can’t handle or process further info dumping at any given time. He said that he’s ok to finish or end at any time, if I am clear that the finishing needs to happen – though he may need to finish his ‘paragraph’. He’s also ok for me to say “Is it ok if I change the subject a little and ask you something else?” as long as it’s ok for him to reply “Sure” or “No, I haven’t quite finished yet.”

This post by @unmaskedbyanna has opened my eyes to these differences of communicating, cast greater light on possible clashes and confusion from both sides – and most importantly for me, how it feels when info dumping – this putting of things in their right place, this herding of information – that helps to know. In my own flitty travelly way, I suppose I’m doing something similar, but I’m also collecting the strays and the goats.

Finally, I have generally found enormous value in following @unmaskedbyanna on IG, and if you want to understand more about autism, especially how it might present in an intelligent person, a woman, or when diagnosis has been later in life, please do consider following her. She writes fluidly, clearly, with clarity, and with kindness and compassion.

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