Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Lelia posted an interesting article , translating a common interaction for the benefit of those on the autism spectrum. Briefly, when neurotypicals (NT’s, Muggles) ask what you are doing – what are you reading, what game are you playing – what they mean is somewhat at odds with the literal meaning of the question.  As those on the spectrum tend to be more literal and are likely to answer the question literally, they may seem unwelcoming.

Communication has large amounts of context, tone, and habit in it.  An NT asking “what game are you playing?” has already communicated a great deal before the words are fully out. I am approaching you at a certain distance, with a certain tone, that expresses that I am interested in you. I may or may not actually be interested in the game you are playing.  It’s just a conversation starter. Are you interested in a conversation? You can start with telling me something about the game, as it clearly has some importance to you. But I could move to another topic if you prefer.  If the NT had called out the question from another room the meaning would likely be different, closer to the literal content. What’s the name of that game you’re on?  Yet you can see why a person on the spectrum would find this a bit unfair.  You asked me a question.  I answered the question that you actually did ask.  I have a good deal of sympathy with that attitude.  I also put great stress on literal content, and the more frustrated or irritated I get, the more pronounced this is.  Autistic traits are often just exaggerated versions of more common traits. Or, to describe that another way, they are common traits, but some filtering or balancing mechanism is missing. There are enough of us in the family that show mild versions of some spectrum traits that I am surprised that we have not had an autistic person show up among us.  Not even an Aspie, really, though we always got on with them more readily than most.

1 comment:

james said...

Mind reading is harder than it looks--I think we've all been expected to try, though.

Trying to understand the unwritten rules can be hard. Sometimes you can figure out simple guidelines, though.

For instance, many of the rules for courteous dining revolve around not drawing attention to your body or the actual process of eating the food. Chewing with your mouth open, stuffing your face, belching, overtly getting rid of inedibles-discovered-too-late, and blowing your nose are forbidden--and don't forget "Sit up straight and don't fidget!" You can savor the aroma of something, but once it goes in your mouth there's supposed to be no sign of it ever again.