Wednesday, August 31, 2022

“Stay off the Grass”

Recently, at a track, I was walking alongside the track on a curb when a track vehicle drove by and stopped at me. I looked in as they rolled the window down and the driver shouted, “hey, how about you stay off the grass?” I looked down and saw I wasn’t on the grass so I was about to argue the point, but then the car drove off. 

I was confused. I wasn’t in the grass, and when I looked at the grass the grass was, well, it was dead. It was all dead. Why would they tell me to stay off a dead patch of grass when it was primarily hard soil?

When I got back to my coworkers I mentioned that they wanted us off the grass which resulted in some laughs. They looked at the grass and said, “what grass?” I was perplexed.

A lot of us on the autism spectrum struggle with humor, and this turned out to be a joke which I didn’t understand. Each day can introduce a challenge for those on the autism spectrum for two reasons. The first, as in my example, is not understanding that it was said in jest. Secondly, a person could think something was a joke when in reality it was not. 

It seems obvious after the fact, but the extra processing time requires an answer before understanding is in place and by trying to avoid the social error we commit a social error. For others, this understanding of joke or not a joke is more ingrained, but for us on the spectrum, well, next time you hear a comment like the one I explained today I’d like you to think about how difficult it would be if you didn’t understand if something was or wasn’t a joke, or was or wasn’t a command. 

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