We have many traditions, rules, and routines in our homes, schools, and workplaces. They exist for many reasons, including safety, pleasure, efficiency, custom, organization, etc. Often young children, or individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), are the first to question the existence of these traditions, rules, and routines. Frequently, their questions of “why” are met with, “Because I said so,” or “Because that’s the way we do it,” or even, “Because that’s the rule!” While their questioning may appear impertinent, often they are not trying to be difficult, but genuinely desire more information as they struggle to make sense of their social environment. As we pause while seeking to provide a truthful response to their request, we may discover a valid explanation that satisfies both of us, or we may find, as the mother in the example of the ham dinner did, that we do not have a good reason for adhering to a particular tradition, rule, or routine.
Social insight and understanding is not simply about getting others to understand what we want them to do. Sometimes it’s more about looking at ourselves and understanding why we do what we do, and whether it makes sense to do it that way. Sometimes our rather rigid means of carrying out tasks or responsibilities has more to do with the way we were taught (or our own learning style or preferences and what worked best for us) than it does about a true need to accomplish the task in a prescribed manner. Recognizing this may help us put the focus back on the end goal rather than struggling to control the process which gets us there. The resulting flexibility may open doors to greater creativity and productivity!
Best wishes as you continue to promote true social insight and understanding!