Talking Trouble

An autist describes what he feels going through his head as he blurts out the wrong verbal phrase.


The other day, when it was time to say ‘Thank you very much’ to my helper for taking me out and bringing me safely home, the phrase that came out of my mouth was ‘Have a nice day!’ I’ve been working on these verbal set-pieces for ages and ages, but I still can’t master such simple exchanges. Talking is troublesome for me. I’d like to work through what was happening in my head when I made the mistake with my helper.


1) I wanted to say the correct thing to my helper. (In my head, ‘Thank you very much’ is stored in the ‘Everyday Phrases’ category.)

2) As soon as I tried to express my thanks, my mind went blank.

3) I floundered, having no idea what I needed to do next.

4) So I looked down, and saw the shoes my helper was wearing as he stood in the small entrance hall of our house …

5) … which reminded me of seeing my father’s shoes there earlier in the day in the very same place.

6) The scene of me saying ‘Have a nice day!’ to Dad flashed into my mind.

7) I remembered that I needed to say something to my helper …

8) … so I blurted out the phrase that was already in my head: ‘Have a nice day!’


Can you imagine a life where you’re confronted at every turn by this inability to communicate? I never know I’m saying the wrong thing until I hear myself saying it. Instantly I know I’ve slipped up, but the horse has already bolted and people are pointing out my error, or even laughing about it. Their pity, their resignation, or their sense of So he doesn’t even understand this! make me miserable. There’s nothing I can do but wallow in despondency. The best reaction to our mistakes will vary from person to person, and according to his or her age, but please remember: for people with autism, the pain of being unable to do what we’d like to is already hard to live with. Pain arising from other people’s reactions to our mistakes can break our hearts.


"A worthwhile existence lies in playing whatever cards life has dealt you as skilfully as you can."


From Naoki Higashida's book  Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8 (trans David Mitchell & Keiko Yoshida)  giving you an insight in to the autistic mind.


A look at some  of the answers from his first book here including video. Some thoughts from David Mitchell and the second book to make into EnglishA few thoughts from mein the business leadership style.


If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try: Ursula K Le Guin on literature as an operating manual for life;  Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Plus life tips from Matt Haig.