Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lunchtime Observations

On my way to my summer class at Oakland University today, I stopped at a fast food restaurant to get some lunch.  It was fairly crowed with lively chatter and there were a few people in line in front of me.  Almost immediately, I recognized that the young man standing on his own before the cashier had a form of high functioning autism known as aspergers.  

Individuals with aspergers are characterized by higher-than-average intelligence but lack the basic social knowledge that many people take for granted.  This lack of social knowledge was evident in the way this young man spoke and through his body language.   The cashier recognized this and decided to use it to her advantage.  It was clear to me that this young man had entered the restaurant knowing exactly what he wanted to order.  The cashier offered him several desserts, putting social pressure on him to accept. He ended up spending more money than he had intended.

I understand why the cashier did what she did in the name of increasing sales in a poor economy, but this young man really did not stand a chance against the pressure she put on him.  It simply did not occur to him to refuse.  If it did, this impulse to disagree was overridden by the desire to avoid the sensations that arise from social conflict. Perhaps this young man recognized what he should have done once the social pressure had been lifted.  People with high functioning autism such as aspergers are smart enough to know they have social problems.  They just don’t know what to do about it.


  1. In cases like this, bystanders need to step up and stop others from taking advantage of people with Asperger's. I'm not chastising you for saying nothing, because almost anyone would have done the same thing, but this sort of thing can only happen when bystanders do nothing to stop jerks from taking advantage.

  2. Bystanders can make all the difference in a situation such as this. This is very true, social pressure can create paralyzing sensations to an autistic person. I tried to illustrate what someone with autism would feel in this kind of situation and the reasons for their actions.

    Since I have autism too, I chose to safeguard my own sensations in this instance rather than intervene. If I had said something, I would have experienced a sensory overload myself so my defense would not have been that effective. My senses were starting to spike anyway just from listening.