There is an old saying “when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me”, yet I think it’s something we do all the time. To an extent, human nature.
We make assumptions based on the information we’ve already learned, when making decisions for the future. We base our behaviour on assumptions we make of others behaviours; assuming we understand what has motivated them to act in a particular way.
In my experience, we often assume that people know the things we know; not wanting to offend by asking them, or sometimes not even thinking they wouldn’t. We assume that others will do things in a similar way we do – because surely, that’s how it’s done?
Of course this doesn’t always end well. Actions don’t meet with expectations and assumptions are uncovered.
But a lot of the time, I think it goes mostly unnoticed. We assume that others know what is happening.
One of the big lessons I took from the Victorian Autism Conference last week was that I make too many assumptions, especially when it comes to Poss and her understanding of the world.
Her social language is limited, yet I assume she understands much more than she probably does. I forget in the rush of life, especially when she is coping well with things, that she might not get it, might not understand.
Our language is littered with euphemisms and idioms, and I think someone quoted at the conference that there are literally millions of social and cultural ‘rules’ that inform our daily interactions with each other.
I tested this over the weekend. We were watching an ad for a shopping centre. The screen showed a city made of shopping bags, the tag line was something like ‘a world of shopping’. I asked her what she thought the ad was for – she had no idea. “Maybe a world made of shopping bags? Wouldn’t they get wet when it rains?”
I asked her “how does it make you feel?”. “Confused”, she said. “I don’t like ads. They’re all confusing, that’s why I like to fast forward them”.
Aha. Right. She does tape almost all her shows on IQ and fast forwards the ads, getting panicky if she has to watch them. I just assumed she hated ads – don’t we all? I didn’t realise how confusing they were for her.
I am not sure how to uncover all of these assumptions, to find out the extent of what she does know. Or maybe more importantly, I am not sure how important it is either? Will she ask eventually?
For the moment, I guess we will just keep checking she gets it. Not assume she knows. Write her social stories without the assumptions and keep fast forwarding the ads.