Today Dad joined me for the sixth and final day of block three. I made it to the Mediterranean seventeen days after crossing the channel, fifteen of which were spent on the bike. We passed Le Tour de France today, or at least they went in the opposite direction about 200km to the north. Le Tour and every other bike races has a number of rules, some of which are written in the rule book, and others are unwritten.
The unwritten rules are many and varied, they also include all of the shades of grey from black to white (often depending on your perspective) – they have also evolved over the history of bike racing. They include not taking advantage if the race leader has a mechanical and the ‘racing’ has not already started, not attacking during the feed zone, and not attacking while riders are taking a comfort break. To the uninitiated these unwritten rules could prove daunting. How do you know if the ‘race is on?’ Why should you not try and win the race when someone has stopped to take a pee? When Team Sky came in to the peloton they broke some of these rules without even thinking, eventually they learned which ones could be broken and which ones they had to play by. In one race they attacked through the feed station, so the next day the peloton sped up when one of their riders stopped for a comfort break. Lesson learned.
Neurotypical people may appear to respond intuitively to social situations. However, the social norms and conventions people conform to have evolved over time, and are learned by us over time. In contrast, people who are on the autism spectrum may struggle with these norms and conventions. For someone who is autistic being involved in some social situations may be like looking at a bike race, trying to understand what is going and not being aware about the unwritten rules that are being applied to the situation.
People on the autism spectrum may not be aware of what amount of personal space is appropriate in a given situation, or how to start a conversation. They may also appear to be very blunt in comparison to someone who is not on the autism spectrum, for example they may be very honest in expressing their views about your clothes that day, or in Laurie’s case whether certain people in the choir were hitting all the correct notes at practice.
Once again there is help and advice for dealing with the challenges of social interactions on the National Autistic Society webpage.
Thanks for reading,