Listening to people with autism has taught me so much about our weird social-cultural exchanges. When we see autism as a different operating system (instead of a fundamentally flawed operating system) then our own odd assumptions leap out at us. For example, I am still a little uncomfortable dispensing with small talk at the beginning of a coaching session even though I’ve worked in this field for years. I still instinctually think we should exchange several meaningless sentences before we jump into more serious matters. I understand that not everyone feels that way. And jumping straight into our whole reason for the meeting is actually quite logical and cost-efficient. So I have learned to adjust my thinking on small-talk in deference to my clients – which is part of what they are paying for.
I think many families, teachers, coworkers, and therapists could learn a lot about the illogical customs we cling to by starting from a place of respect instead of clinging to the faulty idea that ‘the way we’ve always done it’ is the right way. Many of our social customs make no sense. We greet people we’d rather not speak to, we lie and say we are doing fine multiple times a day, we discuss topics that hold no meaning for us, we give false compliments and we thank people for things we aren’t very grateful for. And then we go home feeling exhausted and unknown and unappreciated! I think there’s room for improvement!