Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspective of Autism

A Book Review: Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships
Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspective of Autism
By Dr. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron Edited by Veronica Zysk
Future Horizons, Inc 2005

One of the most difficult areas for individuals on the Autism Spectrum is to navigate social relationships. This is especially true for high-functioning autistic individuals and those with the more specific label of Aspergers. “Age appropriate” expectations are not met and anxiety and other emotions run rampant. Two well-known individuals on the autism spectrum have collaborated in this book addressing this important issue. While they do not come from the neurodevelopmental approach there is much that can be learned from this book. Dr. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron represent two different types of autistic individuals, thus reminding us that everyone is an individual even those who have been diagnosed with the same condition.
Grandin sees in pictures, maintaining an immense database of pictures that she has categorized as if on a well-organized hard drive. Therefore, the book has been arranged in Acts and Scenes as if in a play that she can visualize. On the other hand, as Barron grew up he developed his own a set of unwritten rules that he designed and expected everyone to follow. When people unknowingly broke the rules, he was angry. After telling their stories and introducing themselves to the readers, they give their ten main unwritten rules with personal examples and many sub-rules. Here are their ten main rules:

  •  Rules are not absolute; they are situation-based and people-based.
  •  Not everything is equally important in the grand scheme of things.
  •  Everyone in the world makes mistakes; it doesn’t have to ruin your day.
  •  Honesty is different from diplomacy.
  •  Being polite is appropriate in any situation.
  •  Not everyone who is nice to me is my friend.
  • People act differently in public than they do in private.
  •  Know when you are turning people off.
  • “Fitting in” is often tied to looking and sounding like you fit in.
  • People are responsible for their own behaviors.

Those who are not on the autistic spectrum are sometimes called “neuro-typicals.” These rules are generally learned by neuro-typicals with little or no effort. How? I would say that it is a combination of being inherent, direct teaching as with parents and children and by observation. Those on the spectrum (ASD) think differently enough that they do not learn these rules at what is considered the “age-appropriate” time. It is hard for neuro-typicals to understand why those on the spectrum have not learned these rules. Grandin and Barron have produced a book that helps parents, teachers and friends to better understand and help those on the autism spectrum. Most importantly, Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships provides credible help for those on the spectrum.

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