12 November, 2010

10. a note on a

In case you forgot, a means being able to read people via their body language and facial expression and tone of voice, and to be able to adjust how you deal with them appropriately based on that and was posited by Fiona as a "social skill."

Today she said: (C) [is mostly a consequence of having (a), I think. If you recall, (c) is being able to approach people and make friends without experiencing a lot of rejection.

I can nitpick a lot about a, and I love to, but I'm going to try not to do that in this series. There certainly are a lot of people with autism who say that they can't do that stuff, and they may be right. I don't think I need to prove a untrue to prove that it's absolutely ridiculous for c to proceed from a. So I'm going to assume for right now that a is completely true--cartoonishly true, even, to a level that no one claims it's true in real life. Let's say that people with autism can barely read any expressions besides smiling and crying (and can't tell different kinds of smiles apart), can't read body language at all, and can't tell tones of voice apart except for very basic differences like the difference between a question and a statement.

My immediate reaction to this is that if these abilities were objectively important, then blind people would always be socially isolated and their social isolation would be framed as natural in the same way that social isolation is framed as natural for people with ASD. But a lot of people who have no idea how other people are moving their bodies or faces are able to have friends.

However, I guess the difference is that sighted people generally notice when someone is blind, so they don't take the person's lack of appropriate reaction to their expressions as meaning anything other than the fact that the person is blind. But this is really a difference between what a non-disabled person knows about blindness and autism--it's not really a difference between blindness and autism. What if the concept of not being able to read facial expressions or body language was as commonly understood as the concept of not being able to see? Then when a non-disabled person met someone who didn't ever seem to understand their tones of voice, body language, or facial expressions, they wouldn't be offended by specific failures of understanding (like when the other person fails to tell from their face that they are upset).

So, that's said. But the whole conflict I just set up, in my experience, isn't even the main thing keeping a lot of people with autism from being socially successful.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know... I think a lot of social information is conveyed in tone of voice, in all honesty. It's how I get around most of the time because reading people's faces is much, much more difficult for me than reading people's tone-of-voice. I suppose one can get just as much from people's faces and posture, too... or just from their touch or whatever.

    I get what you mean, though, that there's something there which isn't just a A --> C thing going on. I can think of a lot of times where I've been in situations where they're emotionally unfamiliar with me like when someone around me is angry or in grief (I can easily tell that) but I don't really know what to do so I end up doing weird things and people end up thinking I'm a weirdo or heartless or if they're angry at me they think I'm trying to "deflect attention" or whatever.