I'm a speech-language pathologist whose primary focus & passion is helping adults and young adults with autism prepare for the social demands of the workplace through both individual and group therapy sessions. This is a blog of my experiences working with adults with autism and using different therapy resources.

Monday, November 17, 2014

"But...you asked..."

As a speech-language pathologist working with adults on the spectrum to help them prepare for the workplace, I focus heavily on teaching my clients to develop a "social filter."

As humans, we are constantly bombarded by lessons of "don't lie." Easy peasy, right? Not so much!

Neurotypicals take for granted that we naturally learn the many nuances of honesty. As we mature, we learn unspoken rules that help us gauge when lying is socially appropriate.

A friend excitedly walks over to show you her new shoes. The first thing that pops into your mind is, "those are better suited for Lady Gaga," but before the words slip off your tongue, within a split-second, you have already activated your "social filter."  "Nice new shoes" you manage to say. Or, if they are really outrageous, maybe you muster, "interesting new kicks."

Teaching such a skill is not easy. I have learned that catching learning opportunities in the moment and then providing demonstrations is the most helpful resource.

As I have identified myself previously, I consider myself a "Southern lady," raised in a charming small town nestled in the sticks of Alabama with a mother who could recite Emily Post's entire book by heart. As such a lady, I feel it is my duty to preface the following scenario with "Sorry, Mom, Emily Post does not have a seat in my social training groups."

As with teaching any new concept, you can talk about something until you are blue in the face. Many times, it is not until you have observed the concept at play that it actually becomes a concrete, meaningful idea.

I talk constantly about developing a "social filter." I provide visual illustrations, numerous examples to problem-solve as a group, role-playing activities, etc. but it never fails - scenarios like the one presented below are bound to occur.

Me: So, Blake, what are you doing this weekend?
Blake: My dad might let me try pot.
Me: Hmmm...Blake, think about your response. Was that workplace appropriate?
Blake: You asked me what I'm doing this weekend, and I told you.
Me: I didn't ask you if you provided an answer. I asked whether it was appropriate for work.
Blake: No, it's not appropriate for work. BUT, you asked...

Sorry, Mom...sorry, Emily Post...

Me: Blake, ask me what I'm going to do this weekend.
Blake: Okay. What are you going to do this weekend, Ms. Martine?
Me: My stomach has been bothering me all week. I must have eaten something terrible. I can't wait to get a good book, hunker down...on the toilet, that is...and really dedicate some serious time to a monster of a bowel movement.

At this point, the group members are making all sorts of disgusted noises and faces, asking if I really had to say that.

My response? "BUT...you asked..."

Due (no pun intended) to its effectiveness, I have used this demonstration on numerous occasions in my social training groups. Unfortunately, it doesn't make it any easier to help someone judge how permeable to make their social filter across the varying contexts of life.

On the other hand, it definitely makes a strong argument that the development of a social filter is essential for workplace culture.