Sometimes people with Aspergers aren’t very good at filtering what they say. The can say and do things that offend others. Most people consider how their words or behavior affects others, but folks with Aspergers often say or do things without thinking about how others will be affected by this. They are often logical thinkers and have a reason (in their own mind) why they say and do things. However even if there is a good reason (in the mind of the Aspergers person) the words or action may confuse, or offend the person they are with.
My adult Asperger client (living with his parents) was attending the start of a new college semester. His dad helped him by having his schedule available, and a notebook with paper, pens and pencils ready the first day of class. He reported that his son saw the items and said, “I don’t have my backpack.”
His parent replied “Why? What happened to it?”
The young man said, “It’s in my room, but you didn’t put it here with my schedule, so what you did wasn’t all that helpful.”
The dad was initially confused and a little hurt, and reacted quickly to the offence, yelling at his son, “You are so ungrateful. I don’t know why I help you at all!”
His son was thinking logically, about the items he needed for school, but he was not thinking about how his words affected others. He did not use his filter to prevent himself from saying what he was thinking, even though it was going to offend or hurt another person.
Social Behavior Mapping (per Michelle Garcia Winner) for this would go like this:
- Unexpected behavior: saying what my dad did wasn’t that helpful, and not recognising what he did do
- Perceived intention: my dad felt I was ungrateful about what he did to help
- The interpreted intention made other people feel: my dad felt hurt and angry
- How others reacted to their feelings: my dad felt mad, and yelled at me
- How the reaction made me feel: I felt sad, overwhelmed and mad
What my Asperger client needed to learn was that he could have used his filter (not saying everything he was thinking) and could have avoided an argument with his dad that morning. Teaching him to practice more thinking about what others are thinking about, will help this young man get along at home, at school and in the community. See more on Social Behavior Mapping.