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These New Rules

Some people will say that a sign of autism is that the person does not recognise the unwritten rules of society which makes it hard for the person to know exactly what to do in any given situation. This can lead them to saying or doing the wrong thing. For example, the person is invited to a party and instead of not going actually goes. Once there they sit in the corner and do not speak to anyone. Or, after speaking to people they find a quiet place on their own and don’t speak to anyone. This is breaking a small rule about what you do at parties. However, as social faux pas go, it is a small one.

Another example could be in work. The work is not stimulating so the person spends the day online looking at reviews of films and surfing Wikipedia for something to learn. Again, the convention is that the person does not do that. Because it is not what you do at work and it the Management do not like it. They tell you at every one to one. Both of these are minor but are useful to show a point. How does a person know that when you go to a party you should walk around and talk to people, you should make small talk and mingle? Does it come naturally to them or has someone sat them down and said, “son (or daughter), when you are at a party don’t sit in a room on your own playing someone else’s guitar. Talk to people, you might end up getting your end away. Now, good night”.

Knowing when to speak and what to say is a problem as well. The person with autism may swing from extremes, they may talk too much and bore the person – not that they could tell – or that they hardly speak and are thought rude. Does a happy medium come naturally to the “normal” person? So naturally that they do not have to think about it. That they don’t sit, in silence and try and plan out what they will say that they will not come across as rude or odd. They won’t go through as many scenarios in their head and how they could play out. Do they think, “I will talk now” and then out comes some perfectly pitched small talk. How is the weather? Is it coming home? Did you have a hard time finding us? All of that nonsense.

For me, it is often felt that I am playing a game where no one has told me the rules. This has meant that I can sometimes perceive that I am being treated more harshly than others or that I am being held to a standard that they are not. It is, however, important to note that a person’s perception of events may not be the reality and a person’s perception can be coloured by a multitude of things such as their mood, the levels of stress that they are under, their home life and so on.

The feeling that I have been treated differently could be due to a lack of understanding of what is expected of me, these unwritten social rules. Equally, I was not performing to the standards that had been established and were explicitly made clear.

I may be sitting on the fence somewhat here. This is not because I am worried about declaring myself either beast nor fowl in these reflections and that is because I am really unsure about what can be attributed to this supposed Autism and what is down to my own varying degrees of ineptitude or disinterest. Not that I always focus on the negatives with this informal diagnosis. Because I don’t.

If you do not know the rules then you only find out once you have accidently broken them. And by then, it is too late.


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