Thursday, February 28, 2008

Different Types of Social Skills

Awhile back I was chatting with my father about social skills. As an autistic person, I'm considered to be disabled in social skills, but really it's more like being a foreigner. I speak a different 'language'.
Anyway, the way I see it, there are three categories of social skills:
a) social skills based on applying your self-knowledge to others, on the assumption that they're like you. This is one of the big areas autistics have trouble with, not because we're unable to do this, but because it's ineffective. Unless I'm relating to another autistic person, chances are they don't feel the way I would in their situation. Actually, using this type of skills inappropriately is a big problem for many people, and one of the big reasons most people have no idea how to relate to an autistic person. Most people find early on that when they assume others are like them, they're often right. Other people differ from them in a few ways, but most of the time, doing unto others what you'd want done to yourself is a good idea. So when they meet up with one of the few people who really aren't like them, in fairly substantial ways, they have no clue what to do.
b) social skills based on observation of a certain person or group of people. This is one of the big ways that autistics tend to compensate for being different. Temple Grandin describes herself as an 'Anthropologist on Mars' because she is analyzing people similarly to an anthropologist in her attempt to figure out how to relate to them. Neurotypical people also do this, as they learn cultural traditions, but not quite as pervasively.
c) the last set of skills are ones that apply to everyone. Partly, these are skills in paying attention and noticing patterns. Also, allowing other people to define themselves, listening to them however they communicate. And treating them like an individual. These skills, incidentally, contribute greatly to your ability to develop the b) skills for a particular person.

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Blogger KC's Blog said...

Hi Ettina,

Our names are similar, my name is Tina.
Thank you for the wonderful post/insight. I am always wanting to find better ways to communicate with my son. Most of the time it's extremely hard to tell if he's understanding whats being said to him, his face gives no clues. We just keep trying because I know there is a little boy inside and he's hearing every word but just can't express himself. Maybe he will as he gets older?

11:35 AM  

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