Autism and the Game of Objectifying People
My son was very excited for our month long vacation to the Mid-West and East Coast this past summer. He had several reasons: baseball games, train museums, visiting relatives and friends, going to his favorite place (Bromley Mountain in Vermont), and attending Super Smash Con in Virginia.
My husband was with us for the first ten days, then it was my son and I for the rest of the trip.
A long trip
We put in a LOT of miles on our rental and stayed in a LOT of hotels (yet, also got great accommodations from family and friends, too).
With all of this traveling…My son was looking forward to a game he had devised.
The U.S. States game.
What was it?
He was determined to find (at least) one person from every state on this trip.
How would he do this?
Well, he would approach people at baseball games, hotels, museums and ask where they were from. After a while, he got into a routine by introducing himself, saying he was from “the LA area,” and then asking where someone was from.
What was the problem with this game?
On the surface of it, not really much at all.
1. There may be people out there who DON’T want to be approached and asked questions, for whatever reason, they’re hurrying somewhere or they don’t like to talk to strangers.
2. So, if my son interacted with the (roughly 90%) of folks who don’t mind it, here is a kid with autism approaching strangers, introducing himself, and striking up a rather neat conversation.
“Where are you from? We’re from Los Angeles.”
He got some really great responses from people. Out of the conversations that I witnessed, there were some cool people/conversations.
Great, right? A young man with autism WANTS to talk to strangers (the ones willing to talk to him).
I noticed something every on about this challenge my son had given himself.
He would come to me and say, “I got three states.” Then, he would list them.
By this time, they were already ticked off on a list he kept on his phone. His “States” list.
When he “got” a state, he checked it off.
When he “got” the state.
A check mark in his brain
After a few days of this, I discussed with my husband that his game was a “states collection game.” It was pure objectivity.
The strange people were the objects.
When he “got one of them,” he was clicking them off on a list.
What did I do?
Talk to him about how he talked about this game.
First, he made it clear that he wasn’t saying “got it” to any of the strangers. He convinced me that most of the time, he was really trying to have a conversation with someone.
Second, he agreed that when he talked to us about it, he was saying, “I got this or that state.”
He agreed to use the verbiage, “I talked with someone from XXXX state.”
More importantly, he acknowledged he understood the difference.
Talk to strangers
I explained that it was great to see him attempt to talk to strangers. I confirmed with him that not every stranger will want to talk with him. And, meeting strangers is a part of life. Especially on vacation. It happens to all of us.
That’s all good.
Just make sure it’s not just an objective-type of game to him.
It’s a human interaction. It’s interacting with other people to (potentially) learn a thing or two. Or, just have a thirty second conversation.
Chances are you’ll never see any of these people ever again.
But, there’s nothing wrong with the concept of his game, as long as the focus it meeting people, not simply ticking them off of some objective list. People are not objects.
Autism and the Game of Objectifying People.
Here’s some information on how individuals with autism may have issues with attachment to objects:
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