One thing that’s always been a marvel to me about allistic people is that when they point at a specific thing, others can understand what they’re pointing at. Even if it’s something small and hard to notice.
I can’t do that.
When I was a kid, it used to aggravate my parents. Exchanges would go as follows:
Me: Where’s the [item]?
Mom: It’s over there. *points*
Me: *looks* *doesn’t see it* Where?
Mom: There. *points more emphatically*
Me: *looks again* *still doesn’t see it* I don’t see it.
Mom: It’s right there! Open your eyes!
Me: They are open! I just don’t see it!
Or you could substitute “Open your eyes” with “You’d have better luck if you weren’t looking with your eyes closed,” both of which are expressions that it took me until yesterday to realize are not in fact accusations of groping about with my eyes shut but in fact disparaging remarks about my observational skills – which is fair enough because to mangle a metaphor, I’m someone who could easily miss the forest because I’m examining the bark patterns on the tree right in front of me.
So, to those people who have no difficulty at all following a point and get aggravated with that person who just seems to be too lazy to really look for a thing, I offer some advice and things to keep in mind:
- The person looking for the thing is just as aggravated with their inability to follow your point as you are.
- They are not doing this to be difficult. They are doing this because they literally are not able to register that they’re looking at the thing they want, for whatever reason. Yes, I know it might be right in front of their face. Believe me, it doesn’t matter. Obvious to you does not mean obvious to me. I wish I could explain what gets me to notice something, but I can’t.
- If pointing isn’t working, pointing more emphatically won’t work either.
- Neither will yelling.
- Or insulting.
- What is far more likely to work is clear directions relative to a landmark in the room. “Next to the printer on top of the blue book,” is something I can work with. “Over there” is not.
- Directions should be explicit and descriptive. Avoid meaningless word substitutions if the name of a thing escapes you. I will write more on this in a later post, but for now, suffice to say that if you can’t think of the words “printer” or “book,” describing what you’re talking about is a lot more useful. “Next to the thing that makes words on paper on top of the blue thing you read,” is directions I can follow. “Next to the thing on the thing,” is not.
I hope this helps allistic people improve their direction-giving abilities rather than just relying on a steadily more-emphatic series of points. The benefit of this is that even allistic people, in my experience, prefer the kind of specific and exact directions I tend to give (due to my inability to follow points, I don’t see the, erm, point of pointing). Allistic people I know will come and ask me for directions to things or where stuff is rather than my allistic coworkers because they know they’re not going to play 5 minutes of “Hotter/Colder” with only a point to go off. They’ll get my directions, and go and find it easily.
So rather than pointing, try giving explicit directions the next time someone asks you where something is. You might be surprised at its efficacy.