Social Interpretation and Autism

One of the things I see my son struggling with is social interpretations. He thinks he means one thing, while everyone else sees his activity as something else.

This morning a lesson came to being when he was caught tormenting the cats with a roll of wrapping paper. He thought he was “just playing”. The cats didn’t agree. So, I devised a lesson to today to help him how things are socially interpreted.

Interpretation is how we understand something we see or hear. Because of varying points of view, interpretation can be very broad and different from person to person.

For this lesson I made four flash cards and asked him what he saw of each one.

First, the top photo. He said someone was punching someone else. I asked him, what the thoughts might be of the two people. What if the person doing the punching really thinks he’s “just playing”. Does the person taking that punch feel the same way? And what if they are both “playing”? Will people who see them think they are playing? Things we see in social settings are at the mercy of interpretation. It’s why we have to be careful of the things we do.

Now take a look at this picture. It looks like someone is crying. Why do people cry? Are they hurt or sad? That’s the automatic thought and usually true. But what if they are crying because they’re happy? What if they just laughed so hard, they couldn’t help but cry? What if they just have allergies and it makes their eyes tear up? It’s hard to judge from just a tear in the eye, but this demonstrates how many ways something as simple as a tear can be interpreted. Of course, the best thing to do is ask why they’re crying, but that isn’t the lesson here.

Next we see a person running. Why do people run? Usually it’s for two reasons; to get away or to get to a place. People are either running from something or to something. Many times it’s both. So why is he running? Is he in trouble, late for class or scared? There are many interpretations that can be made from the sight of someone running down the street. Mind you, I’m not adding anything else to the scene of the person running on purpose. Try to add interpretations only to the act of the person running. How many can you come up with?

Finally we see a person pointing and laughing. The second person is frowning. What are their interpretations? Is the person laughing being cruel? Maybe. Maybe they just thought something was honestly funny. The other person likely doesn’t understand and may accidentally have their feelings hurt as a result. And how many ways can this scene be interpreted by a third person? Finally, can interpretations get us into trouble?

Our discussion was very thought provoking and my son appeared to get a lot out of it. Could your child use some interpretation advice?

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David Wilde
I am an advocate for autism now sharing my own fantasy universe to show just what people can do in spite of limitations (like my hands). I'm writing an ongoing story on my blogspot, have a facebook fanpage and more. I have one novel being considered by agents.
David Wilde

David Wilde

I am an advocate for autism now sharing my own fantasy universe to show just what people can do in spite of limitations (like my hands). I'm writing an ongoing story on my blogspot, have a facebook fanpage and more. I have one novel being considered by agents.

0 thoughts on “Social Interpretation and Autism

  • December 8, 2011 at 10:56 am
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    Watching TV sitcoms gave me some really wrong ideas as a kid. I thought that the snarky comments made by little kids were how kids were supposed to get a laugh. It never occurred to me to watch the reactions of the recipients of said snarky comments. The laugh track (or studio audience) made it all VERY confusing. Same with someone getting hurt. If people getting hurt is on America’s Funniest Home Videos… then why is it not ok to laugh when someone in real life does something stupid like that and gets hurt? 

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  • November 29, 2011 at 4:12 am
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    I think you struggle with this in your drawing.  The way you draw hands with lines floating around them gives an unfortunate impression.  

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