Asking Questions

Ian has been taking social skills classes this fall. Unlike some of the kids in the class, Ian's main problem isn't saying inappropriate things. He just doesn't talk enough. We're using the class as an advanced speech class. It's been great. He comes running out of the class with a Pokemon reward card and a big smile. The teacher then tells the parents what they worked on during the session and how we can do similar activities at home.

The lessons are usually about how to keep a conversation going. Or how to talk about Topic A, which you really don't care about, and not to talk about Topic B, which you have a deep and abiding passion. Or how to ask questions of a potential friend.

Now, if the health insurance company pays us even a portion of the $1,400 bucks that we've laid out for this necessary therapy this fall, that would be a good thing. And no, I'm not going to stop talking about health care reform.

Penelope Trunk has written several posts for people with Asperger Syndrome to help them better navigate the business place. Her advice is really good for everybody. I've been to so many parties with people with bad social skills.

People, you have to assume that the stranger standing next to you has something that makes them interesting. Everybody is weird in some way. Your job is ask them enough questions to find out what makes them fascinating. If you just talk about yourself, you're never going to figure it out, and you'll just have bored everyone. 

Trunk also refers to a book by Tyler Cowen, Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World, that I've been meaning to check out. It's about how people with autism fit in so well in the Information Age.

13 thoughts on “Asking Questions

  1. I’m so glad he’s enjoying his social skills class! My kid does the Superflex curriculum at school and seems to like it. Possibly you can get it covered if it’s coded as speech therapy, since insurance companies seem to think that’s a more acceptable use of money than, say, therapy to keep your kid from hitting people.
    I’m a little envious of “doesn’t talk enough” because L never shuts up. Constant running monologue heavy on dinosaurs, interesting words that rhyme, weather, and food.

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  2. E is supposed to be getting social skills in school, but they’re doing classroom-based Superflex. I have him in weekly therapy right now. With E, it’s impulsivity and lack of a social filter and his vocalization at inappropriate times.
    We will finally get our full report on the testing in January, so that’s when I’ll start fussing at the school.

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  3. “People, you have to assume that the stranger standing next to you has something that makes them interesting. Everybody is weird in some way. Your job is ask them enough questions to find out what makes them fascinating. If you just talk about yourself, you’re never going to figure it out, and you’ll just have bored everyone. ”
    So, have you always known this? If so, when? Might explain why the blog works :-).
    I find Trunk intriguing because she seems to have actively worked to acquire those skills and knowledge (i.e. “social skills”).
    I am personally of the opinion that there should be more opportunities for all the kids who want to talk about dinosaurs to talk about them. I know there’s something “atypical/broken” about the way that some kids do (for example, I suspect some of them would not be happy even if everyone wanted to talk about dinosaurs, because, really, they just want to talk not listen).
    And, why is it so often dinosaurs? Why won’t more of them talk about my current obsessive interest — origami? (I made my first 30 unit origami floral globe, and am very pleased with myself).

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  4. PBS now has a show aimed at young boys called “Dinosaur Train.” It’s like they had a meeting and somebody said “Why does racing to the lowest common denominator have to be a bad thing?”

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  5. I know I’m supposed to feel compassionate toward Trunk as an Aspy, but I can’t help thinking she is also just a jerk. I know quite a lot of Aspyish people who lack most social skills, but hardly any of them are abrasive and arrogant in the way that she is.
    I’m not sure she really believes other people are interesting.
    Is Dinosaur Train really awful? People have been recommending it to me for the obvious reason.

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  6. I also dislike Trunk. I feel like she’s constantly playing the Aspy card, even as she does something grossly inappropriate like confess she’s been told to not post so much personal info on her blog. Talk about not learning!

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  7. I feel like the Farmer (if there is such a person) had a very close shave. I don’t dislike Trunk, but I can easily imagine not being excited at having her as a sister-in-law, especially in the context of a family farm where the expectation is that everybody is going to pitch in and suck it up.

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  8. We just got youngest’s first term report card back with the unsurprising news that she still won’t initiate conversation with anyone except for her best friend who’s a year behind her. Next year’s transition to HS will be tough for her, even if another former classmate is already there now and will be a familiar anchor.
    However, if you were to bring up the topics of penguins or Japan, she would be entirely ready to converse with you until her voice gave out!

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  9. Is Dinosaur Train really awful?
    That depends on your definition of “awful”. It’s about a family of flying-type dinosaurs who adapt a little T-rex looking thing. Mom and the kids learn the value of diversity while riding a time-traveling train to visit other dinosaurs. Papa, a Dino cop, searches for the velociraptor who killed his partner. And at the end, a paleontologist comes to tell us more about the dinosaurs we just say.

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  10. I’m very sorry because I was looking forward to the creepy music when Dino Dad walked into the velociraptor bar to confront the killer.
    I was just revisiting Trunk and how can anyone seriously take advice from someone who writes what she writes?
    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2007/09/25/4-weight-loss-tips-from-my-month-in-the-mental-ward/
    Seriously, she goes to the mental ward for bulimia, and her take-away from the experience is that you should do whatever it takes to be thin, even if it means taking time off work, and that dating your doctor is both normal and a sign of being a high-functioning mental patient?

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  11. but I don’t really feel that Trunk quite gets the idea that businesses are supposed to make money.
    That’s hardly a unique failing lately.

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