Thursday 1 August 2013

My Own Autism Moment

One of the defining features of autism is the inability to pick up or read social cues.

This is something I've always had something of a challenge with.  I'm a practically-minded person and so I don't always see the point of some of society's conventions.  I can pick up that something is not approved but judging the scale can sometimes be tricky.  Especially with minor infractions.

The boys have been doing therapeutic riding lessons once a week at a local farm.  It's a lovely spot and they've been enjoying themselves.

There's no seating near the paddock where the lessons take place, so after the first lesson, I decided to pack a lawn chair.  I bring it along and once the kids are up on their respective horses, I set it up in the shade from a nearby barn and sit to watch the lesson.

At first, I felt rather clever about the whole situation but as the weeks rolled on, I noticed that none of the other parents or caregivers have brought chairs.  In fact, it's rare that anyone else is watching the lesson.  They're in their cars or chatting to themselves at picnic tables which are out of sight of the paddock.

So I found myself wondering if I missed out on a social gaffe.  The staff are very focused on their work, they don't spend any time visiting or chatting with the parents.  Is my presence unwelcome?  Subtly disruptive?  I'm well aware that most people won't challenge or correct a minor social infraction.  Instead they will express their disapproval subtly through body language and behind-the-back comments.  (This is a real challenge for folk with autism who often need things plainly spelled out.)

I want to watch the boys enjoying themselves.  I think it's important to watch the lesson so that I can reinforce anything they're having trouble with through the week.  I don't want to stand around in the hot sun for forty-five minutes.  I'd rather sit in the shade.

Perhaps I've goofed. Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive.  That's the point: I don't know.  And it gives me sympathy for my kids and everyone else who has to experience this constantly.  They have to know it's a real and frequent possibility that they've overstepped a social boundary without realizing it.  But they can't be sure.  It's uncomfortable to be constantly second guessing my own reactions and instincts.

I'm still going to bring a chair and watch until someone tells me otherwise.  The fine line between trailblazer and social idiot is hard to spot, but I'll just pretend I'm on the former's side.

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