“How is your year going?” asked an unsuspecting teacher to Trevor today. “Isn’t that a personal question, especially when followed up with, ‘how are your grades?’ I mean, this year, I have nothing to hide. I’m getting all A’s — a first since elementary school. But, that’s my information to share if I want to. I wanted to ask back, ‘How’s your waistline these days?’ But that is too personal, and I know it. Why doesn’t the teacher know it?”
I admit, that is a question I would have asked. I even admitted this to Trevor. “You are allowed to ask that question. It’s not too personal from you.” That sets things straight, right? For my fellow NTs, the situation is still fairly muddled, I would bet. Trevor’s mom said to him, “This is that area of small talk that you have a hard time with.” But Trevor disagreed.
This isn’t entirely an issue of small talk. It’s also an issue of what falls under the umbrella of privacy. When we ask another, “How are you?”, we don’t really want the truth — “I’m horrible because I had a fight with my daughter”, “I’m sick because I drank too much last night”, “Crappy, you?”. We want a cordial, antiseptic comment that shields the truth unless we want more information. (Finding out if we are truly interested in more information is a whole other skill.)
When you ask a question, an individual with ASD doesn’t always see the concern, the interest, or other socially pragmatic purpose behind it. More to the point, sometimes, the impetus behind the questions just don’t matter, as Trevor shared today.
Trevor answered the question appropriately today. But how will the teacher ever know that this question was inappropriate? Or, maybe it wasn’t?
You tell me.