Trying to force someone with autism to do it “right,” or like the rest of us, is like trying to force a left-handed person to function in a right-handed way. It can be done, and some people with autism can learn to look very “right handed,” very socially acceptable, but at what cost?
What is the psychological and emotional cost to people on the spectrum when they must force themselves to adapt to the social rules that the rest of us understand and follow naturally. Are we really honoring the best of them if we are trying to force them to be like everyone else? That is a big question, and one without a simple answer, but still a valid question. While I am not advocating letting those on the spectrum do whatever comes naturally and make no effort to follow social convention, perhaps, through deeper and more pervasive understanding on the part of the rest of us, we can meet them at least part way to ease the pressure put on our autistic loved ones to fit into a world that does not suit them.
Really grasping autism as a social disability is a foundational piece of understanding the world of autism and hopefully lessens our negative reaction to it. The first step toward building better relationships and reducing the clash between our social thinking and the nonsocial thinking of someone on the autism spectrum is to understand the pervasive implications of our social thinking, and the ways we are socially connected to our loved ones on the spectrum.
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