. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Albuquerque Conference, Part 2

This post is a continuation of the previous one. I just wanted to break them up into two parts because of length. As I mentioned in my previous post, the second speaker at the Autism/Asperger's Syndrome conference in Albuquerque was Sean Barron, who has written a couple of books, most recently "The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships" with Dr. Temple Grandin. Mr. Barron is a news journalist in Ohio, probably in his 40's.

Mr. Barron began his talk by describing his life. He talked about how he was seemingly normal at birth, but became increasingly difficult and angry while unable to communicate. His parents were told then (in the 1970's) that they should institutionalize him but they chose instead to work with him and provide him with therapies and interactions with peers in the public school system. He was often teased and bullied as a kid because of his autism and inability to socialize. Mr. Barron describes how at around age 16 his family moved to California and that being in a new environment helped him to get away from the bullies and begin to understand his own autism. He took it upon himself to learn the social rules and taught himself how to interact with others. He said that by his early twenties, he had "healed" himself from autism, but didn't consider himself completely recovered. 

The second part of his talk was about his most recent book, "The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships" that he wrote with Dr. Temple Grandin. In this section he describes how difficult it is for autistic people to interact socially with neuro-typical people because they don't know the "unspoken rules" of socialization such as turn-taking, eye contact, body language, and to not speak everything that comes into your mind because it may be inappropriate.

He discusses each rule independently, but I think they were pretty self-explanatory so I will list them here.  Of course, the book goes into much greater detail and with Dr. Grandin's perspective as well.

  1. Rules are not absolute. They are situation-based and people-based.
  2. Not everything is equally important in the grand scheme of things.
  3. Everyone makes mistakes. It doesn't have to ruin your day.
  4. Honesty is different than diplomacy.
  5. Being polite is appropriate in any situation.
  6. Not everyone who is nice to me is my friend.
  7. People act differently in public than they do in private.
  8. Know when you're turning people off.
  9. "Fitting in" is often tied to looking and sounding like you fit in.
  10. People are responsible for their own behaviors.
What I found interesting is that both Dr. Grandin and Mr. Barron talked about how important manners and being polite are and that no matter if a person has autism, they still need to be accountable for their own behaviors. I also liked how Mr. Barron talked about fitting in--that autistic people need to learn how neurotypical people behave and that they can imitate those behaviors to get along in society better. Even though those skills don't come naturally, they can be learned. One of the unwritten rules, knowing when you're turning people off, is very important because a person on the autism spectrum can talk nonstop about their special interest (like video games or Pokemon) and has no conversational reciprocity. Not everyone enjoys hearing about computers (for example) nonstop and it is important that a person on the spectrum learns how to interpret those unspoken cues from the person they're talking with.

All in all, the conference was great and I'm glad that my school district paid for me to go. Now I've got a few books to read that I'll add to my constantly-growing pile!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great conference. How lucky they were to obtain speakers with a first hand knowledge of the subjece. It is rare that individuals with a such a serious disability can present the subject with such compassion. Hope the books are everything you hoped for. They sound interesting.