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“Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders are either disinterested in social interactions or find them unpleasant. They often don’t understand what other people are thinking or feeling and misinterpret social cues. Sadly, persons with autism spectrum disorders are often painfully aware of their limited sociability, which can lead to profound feelings of sadness and frustration.” — Stephen I. Deutsch, MD, PhD, the Ann Robinson Chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Half right and half wrong.

In my experience – as someone who places prominently on the Autism Spectrum, and as someone for whom the majority of people I come into contact with on a regular basis are there also – these statements miss the mark somewhat.

“often don’t understand what other people are thinking or feeling and misinterpret social cues” – Well, yes. The problem is that almost everyone on the planet suffers from that. The majority of ASDs – as Deutsch points out – are aware of it in themselves, and a seeming majority of people without ASD are just as impaired, but fail to notice. Almost all of us are impaired in that we are almost all really bad at discerning the motivations, thoughts, feelings and social signals of others.

In my experience, the world if full of socially gregarious people who simply don’t realise that their assessments of the internal states of others (thoughts and feelings) are incorrect, or that they’re missing important social cues. Indeed, you’ll find plenty of examples in every form of media, if you care to go looking, and you can probably think of plenty of people who qualify. Indeed, turn on the television, and almost every single story revolves around people’s inability to perform these tasks well.

The primary differences seem to be (a) How aware of the problem you are, and (b) Whether you do or don’t notice that the other person is as clueless about these things as yourself. Socialise enough and you’ll hit it off with someone who probably is no more successful than yourself, but lots of contact improves the odds.

The difference between those who consider themselves great socialisers and those who consider themselves poor socialisers seems to mostly be a matter of perception, and statistical chance.

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Categories: Autism.

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