Not again.


If you are a teacher or parent, you have heard a child tell the same joke over and over.  The challenge for learners on the ASD spectrum can be that they aren't in the habit of reading the group to see whether their action was successful from the perspective of others. Learners will take action and if it feels right to them, they think of it as success. They do not assess the group as a whole to see if that action worked for others too. This could be as simple as telling a joke or sitting in a chair. The joke may be a little funny the first time, but if a learner is not "reading" the reactions of the group, she doesn't see that her peers are annoyed when she interrupts to tell it the tenth time.  And the chair is a just a chair, but if you didn't notice that someone else was sitting there before you, you are not taking up your end of the responsibility for knowing that they might be upset when they return and you are in the way.  

Mind you, I get that this is kind of the point behind the spectrum of disorders.  A lack of social awareness is one of the hallmarks of ASD. In my experience however, this is not because of a lack of motivation to be aware.  Instead, it is lack of understanding and practice.  Understanding that they can learn to better read the situations and practice at owning their own alternative action.

Too often, people with ASD are given scripts to follow and behavioral plans that dictate what they should do. For any person, a script is fine to guide, but it doesn't create ownership of actions and attitudes.  Instead each person learns to build those individually, based on their own personal experience.  When we shield people with ASD from real interactions by providing too much routine or script, we are also shielding them from the chance to try different actions out for themselves.  When they receive the genuine feedback, they are better equipped to build their own response.  When they build their own response, they are much more likely to use that response in multiple situations.

So maybe instead of secretly wishing they would stop telling the same joke, we should just say, "That was funny once but not really any more."  Give them honest feedback and then the chance to try something else.