Navigating with Different “Operating Systems” in the World

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Living with autism can sometimes feel like navigating through a foreign world, where understanding social codes and norms isn’t always intuitive. However, a psychologist once framed my situation in a way that resonated deeply with me – she likened it to operating different operating systems on a computer.

So, Is there a significant better browser? just like people browsers are different. -but only in a subtile way.

I’ve mentioned operating systems before in my writings and feel it’s time to delve deeper into this analogy. Since receiving my diagnosis, I’ve struggled to grasp how I differ from neurotypical individuals. It wasn’t until one psychologist described my condition in terms that were easily understandable for me.

She asked if I was familiar with various computer systems, to which I had to admit I was. Given my above-average knowledge of computers, information technology, and gaming since the age of seven, this wasn’t surprising. She then explained that she used Windows on her laptop, the most common operating system globally. “What do you use on your computer?” she inquired. Understanding her implication, I naturally responded truthfully. “I use Windows sometimes, Linux at other times, and have experimented with many other systems.”

Now which one is best? I prefer Android but it is merely a different way of communicating with the world.

“So, what’s the difference between different operating systems?” Essentially, it’s just subtle nuances. A Windows user browses with Edge, an Apple user with Safari, and a Linux user with Firefox. All three will access their Facebook feed, but in slightly different ways. This analogy applies to autism as well. I can also buy an ice cream at the store, but my decision-making process leading to the choice might differ from yours. You might select your preferred flavor, while I might consider which shape is most suitable. We might both eat a vanilla/chocolate cone but for slightly different reasons. Sometimes, however, the differences become more apparent. When a Linux user saves their OpenOffice document, a Windows user won’t be able to open it due to the vastly different file format in Microsoft Office. Similarly, when an autistic individual needs to communicate, despite both speaking English, the conversation’s meaning can diverge significantly due to nuances in language that the autistic person may not grasp. It could be nuances like irony, words with multiple meanings, or body language that isn’t understood. When these occurrences become frequent, conflicts arise, much like how iPhone users and Android users can debate what’s smarter and better. (And for those wondering, I’m an Android user with poor experiences with iPhone).

Understanding the disparities between one’s own perception of the world and that of others is a crucial part of managing autism and improving social relationships. Just as an iPhone user and an Android user may have different opinions on what’s smarter, individuals with and without autism may have different perspectives on the same situation. However, by understanding each other’s viewpoints, we can learn to enhance our communication and collaboration.


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