Common Symptoms of Some 'AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS'
PLEASE Click on UNDERSTANDING AUTISM and READ it before reading this paper.
This is meant to be a relatively Short way to help you see if you are part of the Autism Spectrum Disorders, which includes:
- □ High Functioning Autism
□ Sensory Processing Disorder (Sensory Integration Dysfunction)
□ Asperger Syndrome
□ Developmental Coordination Disorder (Developmental Dyspraxia)
If you believe that you are Autistic, and you are still in school, PLEASE get officially diagnosed, so that you can immediately get some special training and therapy to help you overcome the challenges of your Autism, which will make your life happier.
Either talk to your Parents or School Counselor, or I can try to find Autism Resources near you. What we do know is that the sooner you are diagnosed and receive special therapy, the faster you can overcome much of your Autistic challenges. It is critical to catch this as young as possible. I basically had to do it all on my expect, except for the Speech Therapy and Balance Beam work.
Depending on your state, young adults 22 or under can be eligible for Autism resources, like vocational training and even help with temporary housing. Some states also have resources for Adults with Autism.
I can also talk to you about things you can do on your own to help overcome the challenges of your Autism.
DIAGNOSIS OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS (ASD)
Since all of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have the same root cause, basically faulty connections and wiring in your brain, every single person with ASD will have present with different mixes of symptoms, AND to different amounts. A person can also be on a little Autistic or a great deal.
Behaviorally, certain characteristics identify the Autism Spectrum. The type, severity and/or number of autistic traits present, determines the type and severity of Autism in the individual. These autistic traits may be beneficial for some disciplines like science, mathematics, engineering and computer programming. Artistic creativity is also common, including music. Many people with Autism Spectrum Disorders excel at Visual Thinking and have superior Spatial Abilities. But at the same time, you can have a lot of social detriment. This is definitely how I am.
The symptoms of the various Autistic Disorders often overlap each other greatly. Specialists used to diagnose you by asking you a large set of questions about symptoms, and if you had more symptoms matching Asperger than you did for High Functioning Autism, or any of the other disorders, then they diagnosed you as having Asperger Syndrome. The problem with that is that you always have symptoms of other Autism Spectrum Disorders as well.
Therefore, everyone with an Autism Spectrum Disorder is now diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Then you can list which is dominant in you if you wish.
Some autistic individuals might show a marked proficiency in rote memorization which may help learn the foundation of these subjects; however, others with autism may have poor rote memory skills. The exceptionally good aptitude in certain subjects, of those with High Functioning Autistic Spectrum, may be due to their ability to readily identify patterns and apply them consistently to new situations outside of established knowledge or teaching.
The biggest plus-side to my autism has been my ability to solve very complex problems, to see patterns in drawings, data, accounting, and even human behavior. I solved problems no one had solved in over 10 years. Those with ASD are often able to solve complex problems, when most other people cannot solve those problems. When Autistic people are solving these problems, the 'Left Temporal Lobe' of their brain becomes very active. If you then take a normal person who fails to solve a set of problems, then stimulate their 'Left Temporal Lobe' (via Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation), they can suddenly solve those problems.
A 2007 study found that contrary to popular belief, people on the Autism Spectrum are capable of reading facial expressions, social reasoning and understanding stereotypes. Eighteen children ages 10 to 14 were able to attribute a range of mental states to dynamic and static facial expressions, but not as great as their neurotypical peers (normal kids).
The autistic children were better at recognizing mental states when the eyes and mouth conveyed information than when these facial features were static and neutral. In a second experiment, children 11 to 15 were just as capable as their neurotypical peers (normal kids) at interpreting mental states, whether it was the eyes in isolation or in the context of the whole face.
Autistic people may be prone to committing social faux pas (an embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation) due to an inability to predict the reactions of, and understand the intent, needs and desires of those around them. This may cause neglecting of social niceties, like knocking on doors before entering or returning a greeting.
Similarly, they may be overly trusting or paranoid of strangers. I am very over-trusting. Autistic children generally want to develop social relationships and are actually able to build relationships with peers through social skills training. People with autism can also be taught how society works by using virtual reality simulations to learn about the complex rules of society. Being on the autism spectrum does not keep these individuals from understanding social roles and stereotypes in a society, many of them can understand the role of a cashier in a super market to locking doors in a bad neighborhood
My Autism Spectrum Disorders are as follows, by degree of strongest to weakest:
- HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM
- SENSORY INTEGRATION DYSFUNCTION or SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER
- ASPERGER SYNDROME
- DEVELOPMENTAL COORDINATION DISORDER or DYSPRAXIA
High-Functioning Autism basically means you are Autistic, but can function fairly well in the real world.
Those with High Functioning Autism typically have higher than ordinary IQ, but measure much lower using standard tests. This is because the amount of language processing necessary on the tests and the large quantity of verbal instructions involved in the testing process, even on the "non-verbal" portion of standard intelligence measures. When tested using a truly non-verbal method, such as the Leiter-R, there can be a significantly higher measure of IQ.
I was diagnosed as Mentally Retarded in 1st Grade, and in 9th grade was given an IQ test and Aptitude tests for Guidance Counseling (what they felt you would be good at doing for a Living). My parents and I were called in to talk to the Counselor, who showed us a Bell-Curve of National Intelligence, and showed how I was at the bottom of Intelligence, Mentally Retarded, yet I was in the top 10% of my class, almost straight A's and on the Dean's list. He said, "Tests don't Lie," but obviously they do.
If you are Autistic at all, NEVER believe anyone who tells you that you have a low IQ or are not intelligent. It is a LIE.
Many of the effects of High-Functioning Autism are things I have overcome and controlled, but I still feel some of the fear, anxiety or nervousness. For example, I still feel anxious about going to a party full of strangers, but I push past that and go anyway. I will still feel hesitant to introduce myself to strangers, but I do it anyway. Then I feel better afterwards and enjoy myself.
High-Functioning Autism has, or still does, do things like make me:
- overly trusting, or the opposite, difficulty trusting
Lacking the ability to engage in "small talk"
Prone to commit social faux pas (an embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation) because of an inability to predict others' reactions
Have a tendency to neglect social niceties like returning a greeting
Have a hard time Understanding Jokes, or it talked a long time to figure them out.
Shy, a loner
Avoid eye contact
Prefer routine and order, like writing lists & alphabetized indexes, sticking to a limited wardrobe
Have difficulties with social interaction
Be seen as being overly serious or earnest
Become the target of bullying in grade school
Seek out the company of my intellectual peers, joining hobby groups, while avoiding my age-group peers.
Uneasy with the complex social interactions
Having difficulty with motor skills and co-ordination (also part of my "Sensory Integration Dysfunction")
Prone to complex habitual movement.
Have difficulty initiating love and friendship relationships, often being rejected because potential partners perceive you as being either too "nerdy" or too intelligent, which can lead to low self-esteem and loneliness.
On the plus side of HFA effects are:
- People with HFA often become excellent problem solvers.
People with HFA are usually intelligent, gifted, honest, hard workers
People with HFA often become excellent in science, mathematics, engineering and computer programming.
People with HFA often have the ability to focus intensely and for long periods on a difficult problem.
People with HFA often have an enhanced learning ability, although this often is not applied to subjects they are uninterested in.
People with HFA often have intense and deep knowledge of an obscure or difficult subject and a passion for pursuing it in an organized and scholarly manner.
People with HFA often present no problems in a supportive, well-resourced educational institution and often do well academically if they can be stimulated by good teachers.
Speech and diction can be unusually precise in some individuals with HFA, but this may be delayed or awkward in many other individuals.
Human beings are CHALLENGE oriented. We respond well to it and rise to it. If you do not naturally have challenges, then that is when SELF-MOTIVATION comes in.
SENSORY INTEGRATION DYSFUNCTION or SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER
Sensory Integration Dysfunction is the inability of the brain to correctly process information brought in by the senses. For example, for me, each eye was reading independently of the other, then the brain integrated those two signals (put them together) into one. My brain did not integrate them well. SID can also make your skin sensitive at times, or your ears sensitive to sound. For example, sometimes my clothing feels very uncomfortable; things like shirt tags on the neckline can drive me nuts; moist skin feels bad to me; jeans rubbing on my legs can be irritating (it comes & goes).
SID makes you very uncoordinated with poor motor skills and planning. Foods taste and texture can be untypical, like many things taste much more bitter too me. I can stand coffee in ice cream, but drinking coffee would curl my hair. Some vegetables, beer and wine taste so bitter it sends shivers up and down my spine. Lilies smell so pungent I can't stand to be near them.
I used to love spinning around and around with my arms spread wide, which is common with this disorder, along with rolling around on the floor a lot. It feels calming to us.
You may experience:
- Either be in constant motion or fatigue easily or go back and forth between the two.
Withdraw when touched.
Refuse to eat certain foods because of how the foods feel when chewed.
Be oversensitive to odors.
Be hypersensitive to certain fabrics and only wear clothes that are soft or that you find pleasing.
Dislike getting your hands dirty.
Be uncomfortable with some movements, such as swinging, sliding, or going down ramps or other inclines.
Have difficulty calming yourself after exercise or after becoming upset.
Jump, swing, and spin excessively.
Appear clumsy, trip easily, or have poor balance.
Have odd posture.
Have difficulty handling small objects such as buttons or snaps.
Be overly sensitive to sound. Vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, hair dryers, leaf blowers, or sirens may be upsetting.
Lack creativity and variety in play. For instance, as a child you may have played with the same toys in the same manner over and over or prefer only to watch TV or videos.
Asperger Syndrome is characterized by:
- Narrow interests or preoccupation with a subject to the exclusion of other activities
Repetitive behaviors or rituals
Peculiarities in speech and language
Extensive logical/technical patterns of thought
Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and interpersonal interaction
Problems with nonverbal communication
Clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements
DEVELOPMENTAL COORDINATION DISORDER ( DYSPRAXIA )
I have Dyspraxia, which is difficulty getting our bodies to do what we want when we want them to do it. It includes difficulty with planning a sequence of coordinated movements.
MEMORY PROBLEMS: In addition to the physical impairments, developmental coordination disorder is associated with problems with memory, especially working memory. This typically results in difficulty remembering instructions, difficulty organizing one's time and remembering deadlines, increased propensity to lose things or problems carrying out tasks which require remembering several steps in sequence (such as cooking). these problems are more significant compared to the general population. However, many dyspraxics have excellent long-term memories, despite poor short-term memory. Many dyspraxics benefit from working in a structured environment, as repeating the same routine minimises difficulty with time-management and allows them to commit procedures to long-term memory.
People with developmental coordination disorder sometimes have difficulty moderating the amount of sensory information that their body is constantly sending them, so as a result these people are prone to panic attacks.
Many dyspraxics struggle to distinguish left from right, even as adults, and have an extremely poor sense of direction generally.
Moderate to extreme difficulty doing physical tasks is experienced by some dyspraxics, and fatigue is common because so much extra energy is expended while trying to execute physical movements correctly. Some (but not all) dyspraxics suffer from hypotonia, low muscle tone, which like DCD can detrimentally affect balance.
Difficulties with Fine Motor Control & Coordination lead to problems with handwriting, which may be due to either ideational or ideo-motor difficulties. Problems associated with this area may include:
- Learning basic movement patterns.
Developing a desired writing speed.
The acquisition of graphemes e.g. the letters of the Latin alphabet, as well as numbers.
Establishing the correct pencil grip
Hand aching while writing
The acquisition of graphemes – e.g. the letters of the Latin alphabet, as well as numbers.
- Poor timing
Poor balance (sometimes even falling over in mid-step). Tripping over one's own feet is also common.
Difficulty combining movements into a controlled sequence.
Problems with spatial awareness, or proprioception (the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement).
Difficulty remembering the next movement in a sequence.
Some people with developmental coordination disorder have trouble picking up and holding onto simple objects such as pencils, owing to poor muscle tone and/or proprioception.
This disorder can cause an individual to be clumsy to the point of knocking things over and bumping into people accidentally.
Some people with developmental coordination disorder have difficulty in determining left from right.
Cross-laterality, ambidexterity, and a shift in the preferred hand are also common in people with developmental coordination disorder.
Problems with chewing foods
- Problems with spatial awareness, or proprioception
Mistiming when catching
Complex combination of skills involved in using scissors
Difficulty dressing and feeding.
Developmental verbal dyspraxia is a type of ideational dyspraxia, causing linguistic or phonological impairment. Key problems include:
- Difficulties controlling the speech organs.
Difficulties making speech sounds
Difficulty sequencing sounds: • Within a word, • Forming words into sentences
Difficulty controlling breathing, suppressing salivation and phonation when talking or singing with lyrics
Slow language development.
ASSOCIATED DISORDERS: Developmental Coordination Disorder (Dyspraxia) is part of the AUTISM SPECTRUM and is commonly associated with other Autistic related disorders, such as: Sensory Processing Disorder (described above), Dysgraphia (described below), Dyscalculia (difficulty with mathematics), and is can also be associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
I have Dysgraphia, which is a learning disability that affects writing abilities. It can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting personal thoughts and emotions on paper. Writing is something I did not get very good at until later in life.
I am proud to be AUTSIC. I feel NO shame in being Autistic and do not actively hide it.
I have proven that you can be pretty severely Autistic and overcome most of it, so that you can lead a full and happy life.
I did very well professionally and was able to retire for life at age 34, and I was able to have an active outdoor life, hobbies, and was even a Foster Father. Before Age 34:
- □ I went to a Merchant Marine Academy (not military) out of high school, and completed my 4-year Engineering Degree in 3 years, graduating number one. I worked up to Chief Engineer, Unlimited Horsepower, Steam and Diesel, on ships.
□ I was a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer.
□ I did design work in Automation and Control Systems (electronic, hydraulic, pneumonic & electrical), and wrote a series of technical manuals.
□ I am a certified Electrician, Plumber, Machinist and Welder and did all house trades and Carpentry, from foundations up to roofs and all finishing work.
□ I was trained as a Firefighter and had Emergency Medical Training.
□ I was a Lieutenant Commander in the USNR.
□ I am trained in Accounting and Computer Programming.
□ I started a Landscaping business, an Investment business, and worked as a full partner in an Export business, as well as trading in securities, bonds and precious metals.
□ I was a Lithographic Pressman, and did Typesetting, Layup, Camera, Darkroom, etc, in High School.
□ I was a Foster Father to two children, a 7-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl, for a year and a half with my second partner.
□ I was an avid Rock Climber, as well as Hiker and enjoyed White Water Rafting. I had a hobby with Sea Water Reef Systems with live corals and other sea life.
- □ I went into Volunteer Work □ I started a Graphic Design company □ I got training as a Counselor (UW), and became a Volunteer Peer Counselor. □ I taught myself Computer Graphic Arts, as well as traditional arts.
I have many freinds and had a large Social Life, as well as Dancing and teaching dance, with total strangers and freinds, many nights of the week, doing the Tango, Rhumba, West Coast Swing, Two-step, Waltz, Foxtrot, Swing, Samba, Mambo, Salsa, Cha-cha, and of course, letting-go and dancing in Gay dance clubs, until I became disabled.
My point is to simply show you that you can be Autistic and have a grand life. You face challenges others do not, but when you overcome those challenges, it makes appreciate everything so much more, and helps you to become a better person.
GETTING BETTER OVERCOMING THE LIMITATIONS OF YOUR AUTISM
Introducing myself to strangers and dancing with strangers was terrifying to me. I pushed myself hard night after night, forcing myself to introduce myself to total strangers each night, ask strangers to dance with me, and try to make freinds. It got easier and easier to do. I started having more and more fun and enjoyed having freinds in my life. I did not know what to even say at first, but people were really friendly and helpful and I got pretty good at socializing, even in holding conversations with multiple people. I got better at looking people in eyes and in simple intimacy with people. Dancing was supposed to be impossible with my kind of Autism, but I just kept pushing myself, practicing and taking lessons.
My Neurologist says that I pushed my brain hard enough and long enough that it literally rewired itself so that I could dance, so that I could more easily meet people and socialize with them. This is called NEUROPLASTICITY, the ability of the brain to rewire itself when it needs to, and it only knows it needs to if you push yourself.
If you keep AVOIDING the things that your Autism makes difficult, like socializing, making freinds, physical things, then you will not get much better. If you challenge yourself in the areas where Autism is limiting your life and happiness, then your brain will rewire itself to better be able to do the things you want to do.
Years of isolation and subsequent depression led to a suicide attempt that I survived only by accident. Once I was making freinds, learning to dance, and had a social life, I finally found JOY and HAPPINESS in life. I had had two previous relationships that failed in part from my inability to even see that I was being used and betrayed in a big way. I had few others in my life and tried to live THROUGH THEM. This is no way to live. When I became a happier person and able to meet the kind of guys who were good for me, I found the love of my life, which was over two decades ago.
Please believe me when I tell you that being Autistic does not make you LESS in any way, and in fact can make you MORE in some ways. I know that it can feel overwhelming, confusing, and sometimes terrifying to be Autistic. Depression is common. But you can overcome it all. It is much easier to overcome it with some help.
©Matthew Barry 2012, 2014
AUTISM: SOCIAL RULES, SOCIAL BOUNDARIES, SMALL TALK, & SOCIAL FAUX PAS
In Conversations, there can be INNUENDO (an allusive or oblique remark or hint, typically a suggestive or disparaging one), conversations within conversations, underlying meanings or subtext, indirect things, hints, secondary implications, etc, all going on in conversation, in a kind of complex dance. Autistics have a hard time seeing and interpreting all of this secondary stuff going on in conversation.
The more people added to a conversation, the more difficult it typically gets for you. You would probably do best when talking to just one person at a time, while being in a group of three of more would be more difficult.
The neurotypical brain of most people can process:
- □ Listening to the other person,
□ observing that person's facial and body language, the subtle tone and inflection changes in the speech,
□ then translate it all,
□ then interpret it all,
□ then process what it means, implications, innuendo, double-meanings, subtle hints, conversational undercurrents, etc,
□ then project consequences,
□ then process possible ways you want to respond,
□ then consequences the of each, and choosing a response
□ then translating your thoughts into verbal speech, facial and body language.
All of this is using most of the areas of your brain. But Autistic people have faulty connections and wires connecting the entire brain together. This is why Social interaction is so difficult for Autistic people. All Autistic people are different because all of us have different faulty connects, and differ in how badly they are faulty.
Sometimes there are Double-Meanings to what people say, based on the context of what is said. Example: Julie broke up with her boyfriend over the weekend, and she and other girls are now talking on Monday. One of the other girls says, "Girls who can't keep a boyfriend must have personal problems." This is actually an indirect attack against Julie, but only if you put it in context of her recent break-up. By-the-way, if you were the one making that comment, it would be a social Faux Pa.
I have a problem noticing when the person I have been talking to is ready to move-on and mingle with other people. I miss the social cues a person gives when they are uncomfortable talking about a subject, or are getting bored with the topic.
Small Talk is casual, light or informal conversation for social occasions, or trivial conversation. In spite of seeming to have little useful purpose, Small Talk is a bonding ritual and a strategy for managing interpersonal distance. It serves many functions in helping to define the relationships between friends, work colleagues, and new acquaintances. In particular, it helps new acquaintances to explore and categorize each other's social position. Small talk is closely related to the need for people to maintain positive faceto feel approved-of by those who are listening to them.
In school, a lot of small talk with start with, "What's Up," or whatever the going phrase is. Most youth would then reply with something like fine, whatever, etc, then the first person would finish with something like, "Cool, see you later," or some such thing. This is simply a way to connect and disconnect fairly quickly. Most people can sense if the first person is in a rush and won't try to extend the conversation, but an Autistic person might not see that. If you want to talk to the person more, there are various ways to signal that you want a longer conversation, like suggesting you meet at lunch, or after school, or email each other, etc.
Sometimes the Small Talk is simply to CONNECT with each other, for the purpose of opening a deeper conversation. Then one of you can raise a topic, like something going on in school, or you are upset about something, or wanting to share something with the other person. When you are both finished talking, you then use small talk to DISCONNECT.
Sometimes you want to break-into a group of people, so you walk-up and wait for a good time to interject yourself, then start with small talk, like "Hey, what's up." Then you can try to pick-up where they left-off in their conversation. An Autistic person might just jump-in at an inappropriate time, like in the middle of a person saying something.
Sometimes you are in a group of people and no one is talking about anything much, like talking about sports, the weather, gossiping about other students and basically killing time. But everyone is also connecting socially, and even if not much is said, it often feels good to just connect with others socially. However, I personally despise 'Dissing,' which is two or more people going-off on other people, like "Look at that guys hair, someone should just shoot him and put him out of his misery, what a loser." I know people who can do that for hours.
Small Talk lubricates social interactions in a very flexible way. The purpose of the Small Talk is often dependent on the point in the conversation at which the Small Talk occurs:
- Conversation opener; When the talkers do not know each other, it allows them to show that they have friendly intentions and desire some sort of positive interaction. In a business meeting, it enables people to establish each other's reputation and level of expertise. Where there is already a relationship between the two talkers, their small talk serves as a gentle introduction before engaging in more functional topics of conversation. It allows them to signal their own mood and to sense the mood of the other person.
- At the end of a conversation; Suddenly ending an exchange may risk appearing to reject the other person. Small talk can be used to mitigate that rejection, affirm the relationship between the two people, and soften the parting.
- Space filler to avoid silence; in many cultures, silences between two people are usually considered uncomfortable. Tension can be reduced by starting phatic talk until a more substantial subject arises. Generally, humans find prolonged silence uncomfortable, and sometimes unbearable. This can be due to human evolutionary history as a social species, as in many other social animals silence is a communicative sign of potential danger.
- Bill says, "What's-up Matt?"
Matt replies, "What's up Bill, how are you?"
Bill says, "Fine, thanks. Have a good weekend?"
Matt replies, "Yes, thanks. Catch you later."
Bill says, "OK, see you."
The need to use Small Talk depends upon the nature of the relationship between the people having the conversation. Couples in an intimate relationship can signal their level of closeness by a lack of small talk. They can comfortably accept silence in circumstances that would be uncomfortable for two people who were only casual friends.
In workplace situations, small talk tends to occur mostly between workers on the same level. However, it can be used by managers as a way of developing the working relationships with the staff who report to them. A boss who asks their employees to work overtime may try to motivate them by using small talk to temporarily decrease their difference in status. The balance between functional conversation and small talk in the workplace depends on the context, and is also influenced by the relative power of the two speakers. It is usually the superior who defines the conversation, because they have the power to close the small talk and "get down to business."
Small Talk can be either direct or indirect. Direct topics include personal observations such as health or looks. Indirect topics refer to a situational context such as the latest news, or the conditions of the communicative situation.
You are supposed to avoid controversial topics, like politics and religion, unless you know you are already in full agreement. Some topics are considered to be "safe" in most circumstances:
- □ The weather
□ Recent shared experiences, for example "Isn't it great to see our athletes do so well at the Olympic games?"
□ Television and films
Most Small Talk conversations are made up of predictable segments:
The first segment is usually phrased so that it is easy for the other person to agree. It may be either a question, or a statement of opinion with a tag question. For example, an opening line such as "Lovely weather, isn't it?" is a clear invitation for agreement.
The second move is the other person's response. In 'functional conversations' that address a 'particular topic,' one's responses should contain no more information than was explicitly asked for. The principles of small talk contradicts this. Politeness in small talk is maximized by responding with a more substantial answer. Going back to the example of "Lovely weather, isn't it?", to respond factually by just saying "Yes" (or even "No") is less polite than saying, "Yes, very mild for the time of year".
Subsequent moves may involve an acknowledgement such as "I see," a positive evaluation such as "That's nice," or what's called "idling behavior," such as "Mmm," or "Really?".
If you are talking to a person from a different culture, it become very challenging since people are often very sensitive about social rules and can easily become insulted. This is especially true of socially rigid societies like Japan. Some cultures have a great deal more social rules than others, and the consequences of breaking those social rules can be much worse. Being Autistic in Japan would be worse than Being Autistic in America. However, even within your own country, different areas have different social rules. In some countries personal finance issues such as salary are considered taboo. But Taboo subjects may even depend on your social class.
The higher the social status, the more RIGID the social rules. Maybe it is Ok to talk about how much debt you have or how much salary you make in a lower class, but go to an upper class party and it is taboo.
Individual Cultural Differences:
Even cultural differences between individuals matters. I once gave my ex-partner a compliment and he threw something heavy at me. It turns out that for him, when a person uses a "big" word he does not understand, it must be an insult. I have been accused on DA of being Arrogant because I use words they did not know. They assumed I was using those words to specifically put them down, when they are actually everyday words for me.
Speech patterns between women tend to be more collaborative than those of men, and tend to support each other's involvement in the conversation. Topics for small talk are more likely to include compliments about some aspect of personal appearance. For example, "That dress really suits you." Small talk between women who are friends may also involve a greater degree of self-disclosure. Topics may cover more personal aspects of their life, their troubles, and their secrets. This self-disclosure both generates a closer relationship between them and is also a signal of that closeness.
By contrast, men's small talk tends to be more competitive. It may feature verbal sparring matches, playful insults, and putdowns. However, in a way these are also both creators and signals of solidarity; the men are signaling that they are comfortable enough with each other's company to be able to say these things without them being taken as insults.
AUTISM & SOCIAL RULES & BOUNDARIES:
In Autism, we often do not understand much of the Social Rules and Customs, nor do we typically recognize Social Boundaries. Our society has thousands of social rules and boundaries, and we are very slow learning them, and even when we do, we often do not recognize the social cues that should tell us if we are crossing a boundary, etc. For example, you are not supposed to talk about certain subjects with strangers or casual acquaintances, but if you know each other well, you know you won't be upsetting him or insulting him by talking about those subjects.
My partner is very attuned to fairly rigid social standards and boundaries, and I therefore embarrass him at times and he disapproves of me at times. Before we would go to an event, or out to dinner with friends, or go to a social event, my partner used to start telling me the names of wives, husbands and children to remember to mention (or they might feel insulted), and what I am not to talk about with certain people, what subjects I should bring up with certain people, and not to use a buffet plate twice, and on and on I kept telling him he was wasting his breath, because I either won't remember it, or I won't be limited by such things. Frankly, I believe that rigid social boundaries and rules are like a prison for people, limiting social intimacy.
With an Autistic person like me, when you ask me, "Hi, how are doing?" I am likely to answer honestly, which breaks the Small Talk rules. However, an honest answer, like it has been a lousy day, or I feel depressed, will often initiate a meaningful conversation about why your day was lousy, or why you feel depressed, which can then lead to another related subject.
When I finally decided to break out of my Autistic Prison, and forced myself to introduce myself to strangers, I practiced different introductions and settled on simply saying, "Hi, my name is Matthew," and holding out my hand to shake hands. But then what do I say? I decided that there is no way I can play their game or deal with all of those social rules and small talk, so i decided to simply be honest and open and not worry about Social rules and boundaries or doing small talk. People would either like me or not. I eventually learned some of the Social Etiquette.
The first person I decided to approach was a Lesbian at the GLBTQ Dance hall I had just started going to. I introduced myself to her and she to me. She asked how I was doing and I told her I was doing better, but still recovering from trying to kill myself. This naturally led into a conversation about that and then she told me a story about a difficult time in her life. I sensed a secret involving shame that she had maneuvered around in her story. I decided to take a chance and tell her that I had been raped once and about feeling shame and guilt. I told her my story. She then started telling me about how she was a victim of incest. When we finished talking, she said that in her entire life she had never been able to tell anyone her story, not ever her partner, and that talking about it was like an enormous weight off her shoulders, and that she already felt much less guilt and shame.
I continue to be the same way. I am open and honest, even though it breaks all of the rules. Many people find it very refreshing. I made a lot of new friends. I find that breaking the social rules is ok as long as I do it compassionately and with good intent. Sometimes I get hurt and/or betrayed by being so open about myself and letting people in, but I figure it is week worth it for all of the Love I gain in my life from everyone else.
SOCIAL FAUX PAS: An embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation.
Social Faux Pas are basically when you break the social rules, boundaries and etiquette talked about above. This is typically due to the fact that we have difficulty predicting others' reactions. We may also neglect social niceties like saying, excuse me, knocking on a door before entering, send thank you cards, or returning a greeting. You may keep forgetting peoples birthdays and anniversaries. You may say things inappropriate for the conversation or for the situation.
I tend to str talking about something and everyone looks puzzled and have no idea what I am talking about, because maybe we were talking about cats, and now I am taking about camels, only I forgot to put what I washing into context for them, forget to let them know I was going in a new direction. I sometimes pause in my speaking while I think. If they don't know me well, some will just start talking before I can finish. I am slow to answer questions at times, wanting to think it through more.
People will say things to you expecting your support or help, but an autistic person might miss those cues. Like if he says he had a difficult weekend, this would be your cue to ask him what happened in a supportive and caring tone of voice. I am actually really good at this, despite being Autistic, because I also have empathy. I think I suffered so much in my life that I became attuned to it.
Other times people give subtle cues that they do NOT want to talk about something. He could say he had a lousy seeking and say it in such a way as to indicate that he doesn't want to talk about it. Autistics might miss that cue.
With practice at socializing, just pushing yourself to do it as much as you can, you do get better and better at it, as your brain rewires itself to handle conversation better. This happened for me.
Then when I became homebound, and had to write to people on the internet, it turned into a nightmare, because it was like a new language. I had always been good at technical writing, but could barely write a letter home, I wrote without emotion. People were seeing me as arrogant and cold. In desperation, I decided to try to pretend I was talking to the person I was writing to, as if he or she was sitting across from me. It worked, it tricked my brain. This is why most of my writing is conversational.
©Matthew Barry 2012, 2014