One way to truly understand the inner workings of the mind of an autistic person is to try to see the world from her point of view.
I’m still struck by the sheer stupidity of my own wedding: I remember sitting alone in the church parlor, waiting for the incredibly highly paid wedding coordinator to come tell me when it was time to walk into my own church and get stared at by lots of people. I was sitting there thinking to myself, “Why am I wearing this ridiculous costume?” Because that’s what a wedding is, it’s akin to a pageant of sorts, complete with weird costumes that would never be worn by anyone ever in public. And there’s a nightmarish amount of money spent to put it on.
So after celebrating the Fourth of July, Carrie doesn’t understand why it was a Wednesday but her dad stayed home from work. She understands the concept of a picnic but she’s confused by the American flag-themed fruit tray and she’s really not sure why it’s okay to set things on fire this one day of the year. Sometimes, the way people do things just doesn’t make sense but we expect a certain set of behaviors that adapts to strange situations.
One way we’ve helped Carrie adapt to these idiosyncrasies is to make fun of them. No, I’m not suggesting for even a minute that we should laugh at a patriotic holiday or make fun of the deceased at a funeral. Well, not out loud, at least. But in order to make an autistic person understand the craziness of our supposedly “normal” social behaviors, try stepping back for a minute and seeing them for what they really are:
Funerals. That’s where we take a person that you used to talk to all the time, make him lie down in a cushiony bed in front of everyone, then we close the lid and drop the whole box in the ground. Pardon my French, but what the hell??? I was a fully grown and apparently normal adult when my grandmother died and I remember (in my grief) thinking, “If we don’t open that lid soon she’s going to suffocate.” Imagine it from the viewpoint of autism.
Vacations. I just left everything I owned in my house, got on a loud airplane, and now I’m in some new place where I don’t recognize anyone and the TV doesn’t have the same channel numbers that it usually does. And you’re mad at ME for having a meltdown?
Birthdays. Awwww, look at that beautiful cake! It has a picture of Ariel on it! I LOVE The Little Mermaid!”…OMG WHY DID YOU JUST STAB ARIEL WITH A KNIFE???
Are you starting to see that the entire world is one big game of “I Don’t Know What’s Going On and Everyone Else Does?” No wonder there is so much confusion and emotional letdown associated with the most normal of tasks. We have a set of rules for social situations, but no one bothered to write them down and explain them. We just KNOW them. Help the autistic person in your life adapt to these stressful situations by taking extra time to answer questions before they come up and address his emotional needs.