LETTER TO THE EDITOR
People on the autism spectrum have trouble understanding and following social rules, as well as dealing with change and with certain sensory input. Often, people on the autism spectrum are ignored, bullied by their peers or punished by authority—sometimes for things they didn’t know they did wrong. Even when they try their hardest to behave in an accepted manner, they can still make mistakes and this can be discouraging.
Well-intentioned people will often urge them to make an effort to learn the social rules that neurotypicals pick up instinctively. But social rules are complex, and there always seems to be so much to learn and remember. Many resources for people on the spectrum include long and complicated lists of rules.
It may be more helpful to follow a short, simple, easy-to-remember set of guidelines that cover most social interactions. Here are five general rules that have worked for me:
1. You have strengths as well as weaknesses, and you can succeed easily by using your strengths. If you do something well and become successful at it, no one will mind that you struggle in other areas.
And when my pleas to God were met with indifference, I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance!
-Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
2. When you’re among other people, pay attention to what they do and say, where, and when.
3. Speak only if what you want to say is kind, necessary, and true.
4. When you make plans, also make a general backup plan to fall back on if the original plan changes.
5. Learn to recognize when you begin to feel upset. When you do begin to feel upset, take deep breaths, or if possible remove yourself from the situation until you feel calm.
Each autistic person is unique. Again, these are only the guidelines that have worked best for myself.