Our social toolbox consists primarily of what we are able to do, and what we know, think, believe, feel, and have experienced (which is also MY CONTEXT, from the Social Response Pyramid™). Those "tools" form the basis of our expectations for ourselves and others. Our toolbox differs from that of everyone else around us. We're continually adding to it as we learn or experience new things, and as we adapt our available tools to deal with novel situations.
Just as important as knowing which tools are available to us is knowing how to use them! In order to do that effectively, we need to be able to accurately interpret not only our own social toolbox, but also the social context (who is here with us, what tools they have available to them, and what their expectations are) and make effective choices based on that information.
We know that as a "social disability," the presence of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other diagnoses or difficulties (mental illness, depression, cognitive disabilities, sensory processing disorder, etc.) can make it difficult for people to accurately assess their own social toolbox, and to select the necessary tools to interact effectively with others. However, their toolboxes, also, are continually expanding and changing. And the role of parents, teachers, friends, and others who promote social understanding is to provide strategies that enable them to become more interdependent. Our collective goal should be to become more socially effective as we live, study, and work together in a variety of contexts.
I'm looking forward to talking more about this topic with an audience of dental professionals next week in St. Joseph, Michigan, as together we explore the Social Response Pyramid(TM) and use it to develop practical tools to help patients and professionals to interact more successfully. (More information about the Pyramid is available at www.socialincites.com including free templates and instructions).
As you assess your own social toolbox, I hope you're able to celebrate the knowledge and experience that you possess, the relationships that are important to you, the personality traits that enable you to be successful in a variety of contexts, and the strategies that you are continuing to add to your repertoire as you interact with others. You are an important part of the process of promoting social success!