Fact sheet on adults with Asperger's syndrome and their parenting abilities


Being on the autism spectrum means that any social skills you want to learn have to be learned manually rather than developing them naturally. You may find however that some of these social skills aren't particularly constructive and in this case it is possible to learn better social skills than non-autistic people have available to them. Particularly when socializing with other people on the autism spectrum.



Questions are the things that enable autism spectrum people to survive in this world. Knowing how to find the information you need and weed out the stuff you don't is likely to be one of your best survival skills. It is necessary to understand that you as an autism spectrum person are very probably unique as a person, with your own goals, features, flaws, needs and perceptions of life. You are probably the one who is most willing and able to find out what you need to know to achieve something.


Types of questions

Personal questions are ones that ask a person to reveal something about themselves, or their "subjective" opinion about something. No particular answer is correct, and not answering is also an option.


Leading questions are questions asked in such a way as to lead a person to answer a particular way. These are often, but not always forms of manipulation.


Rhetorical questions are ones designed to get people to think about the answer rather than to answer them directly.


Queries are requests for "objective" or "definitive" information. The answers you get to these questions are rarely objective or definitive. The best way to deal with this is to query again for more specific answers. This method is not unlike dealing with Google.


Open questions are used in conversation and allow the person being asked to talk for as much as they want for a reply.


Closed questions are used in conversation and which require short clarifying answers. These are often good "listening tools".


Getting useful information from people

If the person you're seeking information from has bad experiences answering your questions then they may avoid doing so.


If the person you ask questions of puts effort into their answers and then sees that you aren't using the information, they may also avoid answering questions.


Questions usually have assumptions, and if they don't, then they often SEEM to have assumptions. These assumptions are statements that can often be more offensive than when they are stated outright.


Example of a question with an assumption: "Why is X stupid?" assumes that X is stupid and rules out an answer that may explain X.


Example of a question that seems to have one: "How do you talk to people?" is too broad a question, probably leading to the assumption that it's a personal question. That is, "how do YOU talk to people?"


The best questions are almost certainly the ones that assume nothing but that the answers to former questions are true.


Starting a "questioning session" with the assumption that the former rule is correct leaves us no option but to ask a question with no assumptions. Examples of such a question: "Is it fair to say that ... (any given statement)?"


NEVER ask a question that you aren't prepared for an honest answer to, and if you aren't prepared for the answer you get, never over-react.


Bear in mind that "knowledge is power" and asking certain questions may reveal gaps in your knowledge that other people can exploit.


I find it's usually easier to find the information I seek by staying focused on acquiring it in a form I understand. This is an art in itself.


It is usually OK to ask one or two questions you already know the answer to to test the persons answering abilities, but doing so to "show them up" is probably a bad idea.


tips for Conversations

The conversation between people who want to meet each other for the first time on agreeable terms usually follows a particular protocol.


Such a conversation usually starts with greetings and small talk, during which both parties thresh out each others disposition regarding certain things such as:
• How willing the person is to talk with the other
• What kind of threats the person could represent
• The persons place in any relevant pecking order
• What kind of mood the person is in
• What kind of person they are generally
• What the persons pet areas of interests might be (yes, non-autistic people have them too!)
• How much of the information that was gleaned from any previous encounters still applies.

The interaction takes the form of questions and statements designed to elicit responses from, while not offending or embarrassing the other person. Or rather, avoiding the consequences of doing so.


If someone asks how you are, they really are not wanting to know the true or literal answer. This is a way of judging another person's outlook. A short answer is always best, and if you're trying to make a good impression, an answer that indicates a positive and confident mood such as "well", "doing great", or just "good" is best. It may be acceptable or appropriate sometimes to give a short one sentence answer that communicates a "status report" in something you were talking to the person about before. In all cases, remember to follow up with a similar greeting if you haven't already.


The key thing to look for in responses is whether the person has positive or negative reactions during introductions or when a subject has been brought up.


People with negative outlooks and body language are usually avoided, and may in fact be trying to be avoided. People with unconfident or inconsistent body language are also often avoided.


Based on each persons responses and body language, the conversation then gravitates back and forth between areas of common interest and small talk.


Any time during the conversation, participants may switch to another topic, switch back to small talk, or use a distraction to pull out of the conversation.


It is considered acceptable to tell white lies to end a conversation when no other distractions are available, but not ones that are obvious.


Failure to respond can lead to people being scared off.


Responding inappropriately can lead to being misjudged.


Reading responses incorrectly can lead to misjudging people.


It is much more important for the person starting the conversation to follow the protocols closely than for the other person.


It is best to stay away from negative and contentious things unless the other person displays an interest in debating them constructively.


It is important for both to try to develop an understanding of what the other person is thinking and feeling while talking. This is rapport.


It is worth noting that autism spectrum people often end up in almost religious conflicts with each other due to failing to understand each others disposition. Small talk is actually quite a neat and useful trick.


Rapport and Friendship

Rapport is not something you have when you "get" someone or consistently understand their behavior, or when you think the other person gets you. Your mirror neurons are capable of misguiding you.


Friends share rapport, but rapport is not about friendship.


One definition of rapport is "a feeling of mutual understanding or trust and agreement between people". Rapport may be when both people "get" each other or share a sense of "connection".


Rapport between two people develops over time as they gradually learn more about each other and develop trust and appreciation for each others worth. This is particularly true for friendship.


Reciprocal disclosure

During a conversation, people will often take turns to trade personal information in the hopes of learning more about each other and developing some rapport.


One person may elicit information from another either by asking direct questions or by disclosing personal information in the hopes of getting the other person to disclose similar information.


The latter case is often used when a question may be considered too personal since it doesn't REQUIRE an answer. Disclosing something else or changing the subject is quite acceptable.


Disclosing too little information can be seen as being withdrawn or not willing to talk, or simply not willing to disclose a particular piece of information.


Disclosing too much information may have the following consequences:
• Being seen as someone who is too trusting, perhaps even a potential victim
• Being seen as someone less trustworthy, if the information is about other people
• Being seen as someone who is dangerous or ditzy
• Being seen as being distracted or detached from the flow of the conversation.

People will have expectations about how far they want to take any relationship that develops, and also how quickly. Those expectations will change as the conversation develops, and it is a bad idea to try to push this process further than the other person wants to take it.


There are very good reasons for everyone to be careful about how deep they go into any given relationship. In fact, an ability to know when to stop going deeper is probably one of the best survival techniques.


Approaching people

This is probably the most difficult part of any successful conversation. If you have absolutely no ability to start worthwhile conversations, it is a good idea to think about the way people introduce themselves to you to get a feel for how it is done before embarking on the mission of learning this skill yourself.


It's a good idea to have practiced your other conversation skills first with people who introduce themselves to you.


Pay particular attention to the subjects people raise. They may have something to do with the current environment or situation or perhaps they are trying to confirm things about the impression they have of you. If different people keep raising the same subjects, it may be due to your image or appearance.


Also pay attention to the care with which people approach you. An example of this was when I realized once that people kept raising the subjects of consumerism, biking and heavy metal. And when I thought about it, it clicked that I am quite a big man, with a long beard and hair who wears a biker jacket and no jewelry. People were thinking I might be a biker or a hippy. I didn't like the biker image, so I stopped wearing the jacket.


Avoid trying to learn things from how people greet (and interact with) each other unless you know about their relevant backgrounds and their relationship to each other. Friends greet each other in different ways from strangers, and greeting strangers like friends is quite a dangerous thing.


It is quite important to be in a happy, comfortable mood when meeting strangers. If you are going to go somewhere to meet strangers, try to prepare yourself beforehand by thinking about things that make you happy.


Conversation starters are also known as icebreakers or openers. The best icebreakers are "open-ended questions". An open-ended provides space for a long varied answer e.g. "So how do you know the person holding this party?" A close-ended question restricts answers to just a "yes" or "no" such as asking "It's cold tonight, isn't it?"


Visualizing social interaction

Visualizing social interaction will not be 100% effective or appropriate at all times. In fact, non-autistic people tend to approximate everything at best. It is worth noting though that visual thinking is an autistic strong point, and it is very likely that a visualized understanding of social interaction is going to be the most effective.


It is often said that people on the autism spectrum focus on the detail, with non-autistics focus much more on the overall plot.

Plot is exactly like the plot in a movie or TV show. The sequence of events is more important than the exact details about the events themselves.


The information gleaned from observing the events and their sequence goes towards building a picture of the situation an observer is currently in. This is "situational awareness".


This situational awareness is related to self-interest in the non-autistic mind and provides the observer with information about threats and opportunities in the social environment.


Also, the information gleaned from observing what other people do goes towards building a picture of "who they are".


"Do unto others" as a guide for social interaction

There is another possible way to think about plot versus detail. People who are not experts at something need to consciously think about doing it until they become experts. People who are experts at something know their field so well that they base their real time actions on their detailed understanding rather than conscious thought.


Conscious thought tends to get in the way of doing something efficiently even for experts, however using conscious thought is usually necessary when fixing mistakes. It may be the case that the "fluid" behavior of non-autistic people in social situations is based on this kind of expert understanding.

One way of keeping a grip in social interaction is by applying the second commandment, "you must love your neighbor as yourself". One translation of this rule reads "do unto others as you would have others do unto you".


Most people seem to try to follow this rule even when they don't know about it, and those that aren't, try to appear as if they are.


Nobody ever succeeds in following it 100%, however, honest people will usually try to fix their mistakes when they realize them, and they usually try to do so according to this rule.


By working out all of the things a person is doing to other people that they would accept other people doing to them, it is possible to "zone in" on acceptable behavior


By working out all of the things a person is doing to other people that they would not have the other person do to them, it is possible to work out whether someone is being malicious or not, and even the nature of that malice.


In the case of conflict, it is often possible to perform this "calculation" for every deed involved and come up with extremely equitable resolutions based on the things that people should be doing, before other people even realize there's a problem.


It is often possible to figure out if someone is trying to deceive you by working out whether the person is willing to do themselves what they are trying to convince you to do. Asking detailed questions can reveal the deceit.


People who clearly have no interest in following this rule are usually well worth avoiding.


The second commandment is not a bad rule to live by either, but it doesn't work perfectly if you don't know what's important to other people.


Even so, if you wish to question or challenge people on the basis that they have broken this rule, then you pretty much need to be obeying it yourself. Otherwise you can be seen as a hypocrite.


It is fair to say that everybody has their own personal preferences about how they like to be treated, and it would therefore be breaking the rule to not treat other people according to those preferences once you learn about them.


On the other hand, using your own preferences when you don't know the other persons, as the rule would at first suggest can be a good starting point for people you don't know. Beware though that you may not know whether you like to be treated a particular way by strangers until you experience it.


It is possible to take this rule way too far and never do anything for yourself.

Many of the laws of physics seem to apply in the average social interaction. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. EVERYTHING that happens has meaning.


Imitating Non-Autistic Behavior

It should be noted that, if you are going to imitate non-autistic thought or Behavior, always give yourself time to be you. Be sure you give yourself time and space to just be yourself and not worry about pretending.

Read about rules of social interaction, and about how to learn what they are yourself. Marc Segar's book is a good place to start.


Some rules are relatively easy to learn, such as degree of eye contact, physical distance from others, appropriate greetings, and the amount of talking versus listening you should do.


Other rules are much more complex such as flirting and interpreting body language. The rules can be endless and non-autistic people appear to estimate them within appropriate limits on the fly.


Pretending to be non-autistic for too long can be detrimental to your health, self-confidence and well-being. Give yourself set times and places where you can be yourself.


Imitating Non-Autistic Thought

Learn everything you can about how non-autistic people think and learn. They learn moment-to-moment. Read about monotropism/polytropism and what Marc Segar has to say about "plot" and imitate non-autistic thought processes in all social situations.


Learn about their priorities in life too, but avoid imitating the social status game unless you want life to become needlessly interesting. Use the second commandment instead - do to others as you would have them do to you.


Advantages of this approach

Most of the things in the non-autistic world make a lot more sense when knowing where they're coming from. Body language appears to make much more sense "naturally" too. Done correctly it seems to work fairly well in gaining some equality, but most non-autistic people seem to find people who can otherwise interact well but who are unwilling to play the social status game creepy, amongst other things.


Disadvantages of this approach

Can feel unnatural, superficial and boring. It's rather necessary to have some kind of pay off to make this work. Mastering the art of thinking according to "plot" means that it is possible to BEGIN learning the way non-autistic people do. At this point, it becomes a game of "catch up".


Time spent imitating non-autistic people is time that could be spent in other forms of self-development that can lead to a more fulfilling life.


Tips for teaching yourself social skills

In all likelihood, you may be your own best teacher.


To get the best out of your self education, it is probably necessary to adopt certain attitudes and behaviors that best enable you to research and study better ways to deal with the world.


The habit of spending time thinking things through is often quite useful, but it's easy to waste that time trapped in logic loops. If you realize that you are trapped in such a loop, then questioning and testing the logic can help. You can learn a LOT from doing this.


If it is not possible to test the logic, then finding something else to think about for a while is probably better than wasting your time.


Development cycle for social skills

The basic method behind developing anything such as an invention, a product, an idea or a recipe for a really great cup of coffee is to repeat through the different phases of a Development Cycle.


The phases of the development cycle are: design -> build -> test -> post-mortem.


To make a recipe for a really great cup of coffee start by making or obtaining a basic one (design), then make a cup (build), taste it (test), then find something that isn't really great about it (post mortem). Change the recipe to make it better (design) and repeat until you have a really great cup of coffee. The recipe should now be for a really great cup of coffee.


These steps may seem rather obvious, but it is very easy to lose track of where you are in this cycle when developing more complex things such as rules to live life by. Skipping steps in the cycle or not doing them properly often ends up in wasting lots of time. Also, shortening the time taken for a step while still performing it properly allows development to occur at a faster pace.


The "scientific method" is very similar to the development cycle, but where the development cycle applies to practical things, the scientific method applies to theories.


The "reduction algorithm"

Having figured something out, it is often possible to learn even more by eliminating the irrelevant from what you have learned and dissecting the rest to its simplest possible components.


Those smaller components are often more applicable to radically different aspects of life, and are also much easier to explain and to prove to other people.


Knowing a few broadly applicable rules in life is much easier than knowing lots of complex ones.


Putting up with things you don't have to put up with usually wastes yet more time.


It's fair to say that "hyperfocusing" on solving social interaction problems is destructive to the process of learning about social interactions. Example follows: XXX


Taking the perspective that "nobody ever does anything without a reason" helps a great deal when trying to understand people.


Running away from threats can mean surviving, but possibly running forever.


Running into threats can mean suffering serious loss. Keeping a safe distance from threats can mean gaining the opportunity to study them.


Take pains to find and fix your mistakes, but never EVER apologize for who you are. Other people WILL try to make you do this.


Trying to memorize rules and remember them later is probably not the best thing to do. A way that seems to work better is to try to reason on them and leave it till a later date for them to show their worth.


If life isn't like falling off a log, you're probably doing something wrong.

This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation and is adapted from an article called A Survival Guide for People Living on the Autism Spectrum. Click here to read the full publication at WikiBooks.

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This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation and is adapted from WikiBooks.

Living with Autism or Aspergers syndrome in a non-autistic world can be difficult, particuarly when it comes to social interaction and conversation.