If you remember my blog titled “Not Everybody Who Is Nice to Me Is My Friend”, it talked about how when you first meet a person, they may seem nice, but when you get to know the person their real personality comes out. This is rule # 7 in Temple Grandin’s book “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships”. People who are on the Autistic Spectrum often take things literally, as a result of that they don’t understand jokes and humor, because pf this, they are often teased and picked on in school. When a child with ASD meets a new person who has a smile on their face, they tend to think that they are happy all the time. In the book, Temple gave the example of when you Google search the word “happy”, the only results that show are information about the word “happy”, they don’t show anything about the word “sad” or “angry”. To put it in simpler terms, an extremely happy person may be hiding that they are angry or sad about something. As mentioned in the book, kids on the Autistic Spectrum demonstrate black and white thinking, which is taking everything they see and hear literally.
In the book, Temple mentioned that “If people acted any way they wanted, at any time, in any setting, we would be living in a chaotic, messed up world. We wouldn’t have basic structures that provide us with the essentials we need to survive, like food, clothing and shelter.” As I have said before, kids on the Autistic spectrum don’t understand boundary issues, in this case it is what is appropriate in public versus in private. Go back to Temple’s example from the book, it mentioned how her mother would not tolerate her messing up the living room, but she will tolerate it if she messes up her own bedroom. The fact is that parents do not teach their kids appropriate behaviors when in public. There are some teenagers and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome that want to make friends, and take part in activities like dating, but not respecting boundary issues and public versus private behavior will prevent them from doing so successfully.
This rule also related to another characteristic that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome may show, and that is making assumptions and generalizing. Shaun Barron mentioned how when he would go to public places like a shopping mall or a restaurant, he would see young couples holding hands. That got him very tense and upset. When they came home, he angrily made the comment “Everybody is in a great relationship but me”. This was another “black and white thinking” situation. When you see a teenage couple at the mall or at any other public place holding hands, they look happy, therefore they are happy together. That unfortunately is not always true, they hide their relationship issues by holding hands and acting happy. It is not a good idea to make generalizations about people because you don’t know their real story. Their private life could be completely different, they could be arguing and fighting about things you never could have guessed they were going through when you saw them happily holding hands, smiling and kissing in public. This is true when you meet any person, for example, there is a kid that talks about you rudely behind your back, and you are really getting sick and tired of hearing him do it. I strongly agree that it is extremely rude and inappropriate to do that, but the person may be having similar feelings of not belonging with their friends, and they make fun of other people to try to stand out with their friends. It could also be because of the mood they are in. When somebody is ill, they usually are not very sociable and friendly. Being sick, even if it is just a small cold can really affect a persons mood and ability to do their job. As I mentioned before, when you see a person who is demonstrating the characteristics of a “happy go lucky” person, that doesn’t always mean they are “happy go lucky”. They could be hiding that they are angry or sad about something. I am going to give you an example that every single high school and college student can relate to. It’s Wednesday in Chemistry class, and your teacher gave you a lab assignment that was to be completed by the end of the class period on Friday. You really do not want to do this assignment, and to make matters worse, your assigned partner is a person you are not very fond of. While you work on the lab, you and your friends make up jokes about how much you enjoy the lab and the person you are working with. If somebody on the Autistic Spectrum was in this situation, they would take their jokes literally and think that they really enjoy working with you and that they love the teacher and the class. Kids with Autism often don’t understand sarcasm, which very well could lead to teasing and bullying in school. I have been in situations where people have told me jokes, and I took them the wrong way and became upset about it. Kids with Aspergers Syndrome often don’t understand that some jokes are inappropriate for certain settings, which could also lead to teasing, bullying and trips to the principals office. Going back to my example, humor makes getting through a situation easier than complaining about it. It is not socially acceptable to complain about things that don’t go your way, because the simple fact of life is that things won’t always go your way. I completely agree with Temple and Shaun when they talk about that particular unwritten rule being unfair, because it is unfair. The cold hard truth is that nobody wants to be around somebody who complains and mopes about things all the time. Complaining about things is more appropriate to do in private than in public. Once again, that is because nobody wants to listen to a complainer.
To wrap up, I have been around many neurotypical people who demonstrate a lack of social skills and understanding of this rule. My philosophy is that the “normal” people are the ones with problems. Many of them are ignorant enough to call people names just because they are different from you. The best thing you can do is to not listen to them, and think of them as the ones who lack social skills. Hopefully after reading this, you have a better understanding of some of the experiences I have been through in life.