Over the weekend, I had the chance to observe an individual who I suspect was on the autism spectrum. He was quite eager to pitch in and help as we set up and took down tents on Saturday, talking constantly about his interests (science fiction and fantasy). After that was done, he tried to invite himself along to dinner. I explained that my friend and I were looking to catch up as we hadn't seen each other in awhile and he graciously said "oh, I understand, you'd probably prefer to be on your own."
I watched how other people responded to his inquiries and saw that many of them were quite uncomfortable. One woman asked if someone could walk her to her car as she was worried he might follow her. It made me feel quite sad as I suspect he was only trying to build on a social connection but because he wasn't following the accepted and unstated rules of society, people were withdrawing.
This is a challenge that people with autism often face. They want to connect but somehow their efforts seem to sprout more hostility than friendship.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could simply be comfortable saying: "This isn't an appropriate request when we've only known each other for fifteen minutes" or "While we've been talking as we complete a tedious task, it was not an invitation to a deeper friendship. Sorry for the misunderstanding."
I really wish people could be more comfortable being honest and direct rather than leave the person on the spectrum to wonder what they did wrong.