Autism verses Neurotypical Embarrassment

Autism verses Neurotypical Embarrassment

I read an article recently (see below) from an autistic adult who wrote about how neurodiverse people learn neurotypical social skills…and should they?

Neurotypical verses neurodiverse

How much do they need to know?

Where’s the point when the neurodiverse gets to be the neurodiverse?

Is it always appropriate that neurodiverse people (for this blog I discuss people with autism) learn each and every neurotypical social skill out there? And, always behave “properly?”

How does this involve me?

Just today I was reminded about this very topic…

I was at Travel Town (in Los Angeles) with my sixteen-year-old son.

My son was volunteering at the Travel Town Depot Day. It’s their big event for the year. My son has been volunteering there for two years now. It’s really his perfect fit for volunteering.

Also, the woman in charge of the volunteers has a child with special needs, which means she “gets it.”

Gets what?

She knows that my son has autism and she has her own special needs child, so she understands what a child with autism “looks like.”

What happened?

Well, my son was very eager to tell me about a person he had met at Travel Town (a person who had traveled to Poland, Poland being his latest obsession).

He kept trying to interrupt the conversation I was having with the woman (in charge of the volunteers).

I could tell my son was becoming agitated, bursting to tell me what he needed to tell me.

Yet, I was trying to balance a conversation with the woman.

Finally, I let my son speak (about the person who had visited Poland).

Too much

Unfortunately, he was droning on—beyond the “acceptable norms.” In my opinion.

In the opinion of a neurotypical.

I can read the signs, he can’t

My son was enthusiastic about meeting a new person and wanted to go on and on about it, but I thought he had said enough.

Also, I could tell that the woman needed to get back to work. It was a busy day at Travel Town. She had a lot to do.  

My son gets upset

My son got upset because he couldn’t finish what he began.

The woman understood (because she gets it) and we left.

This got me thinking.

What about?

My son is almost an adult now. He has had social skills groups/training—whatever you want to call—for many years now. All of it due to his autism…the fact that his social skills are behind (in development) to the neurotypical norms. He needed to be taught social skills.

With the understanding that neurotypicals have an easier time learning social skills, and learn them when they’re very young.

So, my son has been learning neurotypical social skills…acceptable social skills.

What are acceptable social skills?

In regards to social skills and the “training” of my autistic son… is that right to do to him? All of that “training” because he “has to have” in order to act in a certain way?

Where does the autism play a role in adult behavior? Should it? Should we really be trying to get rid of all of it, or should he keep some of the traits that make him him?

Just because he’s about to become an adult, should I expect “perfect” neurotypical behavior at all times? Especially since neurotypicals often get it wrong. We’re often awkward as heck. We’re far from perfect. 

What’s my solution?

A middle ground, one that my son should reach for…and one that I’m going to have to try to remember.

I really don’t have a right to try to push all of the autism out of him. He’s a person with autism. He’s always going to be a person with autism.

However, the middle ground is his part of the bargain.

My son explained to me that he wanted to talk to both of us about the person he had met…He wanted to share his experience with me and with the woman in charge of the volunteers.

He just didn’t preface his need to talk.


I believe I might have misjudged him in this situation. I rushed to judgement.

However, my son still needs to have social skills, if and when he needs them. He did need to wait until there was a proper time for him to speak…and he did need to explain to both of us that he was bursting to tell both of us his news.

Now, in regards to my son’s social skills… Maybe he just doesn’t always need each and every neurotypical social skill in the book.

Not all of them, not all the time. And, not in my way to do things.

He has to do things his way.

His way could be a neurodiverse way

His neurodiverse way. With some social skills, when needed.   

My son is neurodiverse and he has to be allowed to be neurodiverse. Even in a social situation.

Even if it embarrasses me. Embarrassing is my issue, it’s not necessarily my son’s issue.

Nor should it be.

Here is an excerpt from the above-mentioned article:

“After yesterday’s community question, I wanted to bring up the topic of neurodiverse people learning neurotypical social skills.

In my opinion, I think it’s important for neurodiverse people to learn neurotypical social skills as though we are learning a foreign language. To be polite, avoid unnecessary offense, and have better success in the neurotypical world.

However, I disagree with neurodiverse people being made to feel we must change who we are and mask our true selves to the point of psychological damage.

I’d like to actually find a way to teach neurotypical people neurodiverse social skills!

Two questions

1) In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of neurodiverse people learning neurotypical social skills?

2) How can we teach neurotypical people neurodiverse social skills?

I think both neurotypes could learn so much from each other if we had at least a basic understanding of each other’s way of communicating and connecting.”

Autism verses Neurotypical Embarrassment


More on Kimberly Kaplan:

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