Uniquely Human: Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Social Understanding

“Nearly every person with autism has some degree of difficulty navigating the social world” (109).


“Human beings are hardwired to be socially intuitive, but autism poses challenges to developing that intuition” (109).


“What comes naturally and effortlessly to others always requires some degree of conscious effort, and one is constantly reminded of the struggle” (109).


“When people with autism display behavior that appears to be abrupt or rude, or when the simply seem oblivious, it is often because their neurological wiring makes it difficult to weigh the many subliminal factors that help us read social situations” (112).


“We teach one rule, only to have the child encounter its exceptions. We teach the exceptions but forget to mention that generally people don’t talk about the rules, they just follow them. The child wants so badly to get it right, but sometimes entering the world of social rules only brings more misunderstandings–sometimes comically” (114).


“Language can be a barrier to social understanding because people with autism tend to interpret language literally, and we often do not say what we mean” (115).


“The social world is infinitely complex, with no end of unwritten rules, exceptions, and variables. No matter how much effort parents and professionals put into preparing a child, we can never anticipate every possible misstep, even when we (or our children) have the best of intentions” (117).


“For people with autism, trying to comprehend the social world can mean living in an almost constant state of confusion, bewilderment, and frustration” (118).


“Living in a state of constant confusion about even ordinary social interactions can mean that when situations arise that are unanticipated or truly unfamiliar, it’s likely the child will react in unexpected or extreme ways. To an observer the behavior can look rash, sudden, or inexplicable, but it’s often the result of frustration and anxiety that has been building in the child for some time” (119).


“If it’s difficult for children on the spectrum to comprehend the subtle, hidden rules of social interaction, it can be even more challenging to gain an understanding of emotions–their own and those of others” (124).


“[M]any of the social traits and practices we consider important, even crucial, aren’t inherent human behaviors but rather rules that can vary widely from one culture to another” (129).


“We all make assumptions about each other’s behavior that usually go unspoken but that nevertheless have great impact on our interactions. Often people with autism don’t perceive the need to communicate what’s bothering them–or sometimes they find unorthodox ways to do so” (130).


Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post and continue to read my following posts about Uniquely Human by Barry Prizant. 🙂 ❤



Prizant, B. (2015). Uniquely human: A different way of seeing autism. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster

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