For those of you who don’t know what social imagination is – it’s not the same thing as ‘standard’ imagination that allows people to make up stories of some kind. Social imagination is about understanding how real life situations may unfold and how real people are likely to behave in certain situations.
I demonstrated lack of social imagination when I believed that bringing autism diagnosis to work would stop the bullying campaign I was a victim or when it took me 3 days to realise that Home Group claimed in their response to my employment tribunal claim that my diagnosis was private and they paid for it because there were fabricated documents in my file.
We, autistics, are poor at social imagination and that’s why we take people at face value, at least most of the time. You could say that is a problem connected with our disability, and it certainly is, at least up to a point. But then, neurotypicals have an opposite issue: they use their social imagination to stereotype people, to put them into neat boxes.
I felt like that was my problem when I tried online dating. Men didn’t know what to do with me. Polish and working in care, yet confident and assertive. It shouldn’t be like that, should it? I felt like they didn’t really want to get to know me, they wanted to stereotype me instead. And then I met John. He was completely different, I felt like he didn’t have any preconceived ideas about me and was opened to getting to know me instead. That’s why our relationship could flourish.
Anyway, what I wanted to say here is: Simon Baron-Cohen is not any better. He’s doing exactly the same thing. Around a year ago I set up a petition to provide post diagnostic support to autistic adults and I emailed it to Simon and asked him to share it. I can see now how socially naive that looked from neurotypical person perspective; me, a blogger who just started, asking top autism scientist in the country to share my petition. It was a silly thing to do, you have to agree.
But at the time I was just going through options of what I could do to help autistics while at the same time to get some public attention and to establish myself in the autism advocacy world. This is what I do when I’m in new situation: I’m going through options and because I have deficit of social imagination, some of them will look silly and naive. With time though, when I work out the rules of engagement, I get much smarter than that and the options that come to my head are much better.
And you would think that a top autism specialist would know that’s how autistic person may behave.
What was the right thing for Simon to do at that time? To explain to me that he can’t share my petition but he is working on issues I’m concerned about and briefly discuss with me what changes he’s trying to implement.
And what he did instead? He replied that he’ll share my petition but he never did.
He used his social imagination to stereotype me. Well done Mr Professor. And in case I already discussed that on my blog, please take this as a friendly reminder that I’d never forget this.
Equal opportunities, that’s why I’m doing this.