Socially Curious

Socially Curious coverSocially Curious and Curiously Social: A Social Thinking Guidebook for Teens & Young Adults with Asperger’s, ADHD, PDD-NOS, NVLD, or other Murky Undiagnosed Social Learning Issues
Garcia Winner and Crooke

Submitter: While this idea of learning social nuances sounds great in theory, just about every autistic adult will tell you that their attempts at conforming to these expectations will leave them physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Such advice as this could only work in the short-term when an autistic person is that desperate to fit in with their neurotypical peers. But will this advice guarantee them a happy life?

The author of this book rationalizes discrimination against autistic people in so many ways. As a neurotypical herself, Michelle Winner sees no harm in reminding autistics how their natural autistic tendencies will inherently make their peers feel uncomfortable. The only way that anyone would be comfortable around them, is for them to start having more “expected” behaviors and refrain from doing “unexpected” behaviors (p. 5) – which is just a euphemism for looking more “normal.” God forbid doing something to change the bigoted perceptions that many people have about autistic behaviors; after all, it is the autistic people who are broken members of society who need to be fixed with a little Social Thinking.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no information in this book regarding sensory issues or executive dysfunction, which are very real problems for people on the autism spectrum. These actually make it understandable for a man to have a meltdown while he wastes travel time for a cancelled meeting, yet the author has the nerve to call it an “overreaction” that he could easily control (p. 141). For someone who keeps emphasizing the importance of perspective-taking, Michelle Winner fails epically when it comes to putting herself in the shoes of the people she works with. Thus, a “professional” like her has no business telling autistic children or adults what is best for them.

Holly: Plus, it has an obnoxiously long subtitle!

Hanging Out



Socially Curious introduction



  1. I think this book might be more useful for so-called “normal” kids that are shy or anxious. I hated “breaking into groups” in school, and I still hate it now with people that I don’t know. I wonder if teachers have any idea how traumatic that experience can be for kids that aren’t very social.

  2. Two comments: We probably know a lot more about Aspberger’s and other conditions now than was known when the book was written. And, I find socializing exhausting too! I have to think about what to ask friends’ about, remember which topics to avoid, be sure everyone gets to talk — whew! Oh, and remember to say stuff about myself (even though my hobbies are not the usual) so my friends don’t feel as if they’re being interrogated. No wonder staying home with the remote sounds so much simpler.

    1. Actually, they’re still trying to push this one and its methods in special ed in classrooms, and this useless woman is still lecturing on a regular basis. But you have no idea how relieved I am that a relatively mainstream source like this is showing what an awful book this is. I truly believe that this kind of approach being allowed in schools is cause for the high rate of autistic suicides.

  3. Ugh at that thought bubble illustration in the last one — half those thoughts can easily be applied to just plain ol’ introverts (like me) too!

  4. I’ve mentioned before that I have Asperger’s, so I think you can guess how I feel about this book. The only way for us to be truly happy is to be allowed to be ourselves instead of what society thinks. If it thinks at all. When I was a child I was happy because I was allowed to myself even though I seemed a bit odd, but then you become a teenager and suddenly your life is supposed to revolve around things I thought were stupid, boring, or dangerous and I still do. I couldn’t understand why I had to fit in with kids who smoked, drank, did drugs, bullied, swore like sailors, had to wear the latest fashions and be extremely interested in the opposite sex when I just wanted to draw cartoons and collect Garfield plushies and wear jeans and t-shirts every day.

  5. I am both an introvert and a person who has a family member who has autism. I’d like to see if this book has a more recent edition. The author’s heart is in the right place but I agree with others – it might be more helpful to a neurotypical who happens to be introverted.

  6. I’m not autistic. I kind of thought at one point that I might be, but I was never diagnosed, so I couldn’t say for sure. Even so, I can agree that a lot of stuff covered in this book could cover regular introverts (which I DO know I am) and I’m shocked that this book was published in 2009, not long ago at all. What happened to being yourself and learning to accept others as they are? Most people with autism just can’t help some of their mannerisms. Heck, I can’t help some of my own mannerisms, especially in the face of such judgement as the author displays. I tried to fit in once, long ago, and I just couldn’t keep it going. I believe God made each of us in a very special way, and the only way to find the friends right for us IS when we’re being ourselves–even if you don’t end up with several friends or aren’t the most popular in the end. So if any kids in high school or middle school are reading this, my own advice to you is just to stay strong, and don’t try too hard at the fitting in thing. It may not seem like it, but one day it will get better. Most people luckily grow up and drop the petty BS such as cliques and the like by the time they reach college. And even if you don’t, you’re bound to find the friends just right for you if you keep being true to yourself. I know I have. It took a long time, but I’ve found them.

  7. I’m an introvert and would not have found this helpful at all as a teen – just judgemental and promoting social norms that are harmful. The teenage years (and sometimes the adult years too) are hard because you are suddenly expected to conform and to want to be popular with friends and love interests and made to feel bad if you don’t. Even most of the popular kids I don’t think are always that happy as teens as they may have reached the top of the social ladder, but are often not being true to themselves to get there, and a there’s always someone looking to knock them off. My younger sister was popular with friends and boys, but still got in fights with peers and had a lot of trouble with anger in her teens. How about a book for all teens on understanding and accepting differences and building empathy? Some people never grow out of this stage hence all the competition on pinterest and people who walk all over other people to get what they want at work. As for getting into groups, as a primary teacher I am flexible about group numbers, because I was often the one left out as the shyest of my group of 5 friends when teachers insisted there must be exactly 4 people in each group. For most activities it doesn’t matter if some groups have 3 and some have 5 or 6, so to be inclusive and allow introverted and ASD kids etc to find groups more easily I rarely say a set number. I also remind kids to be inclusive for group activities and let someone join their group if they ask or even look for those left out and invite them into your group. Thankfully there are usually some kids with good empathy in the class, and this is a character trait that can be encouraged and developed if it is valued by teachers.

  8. I also have Asperger’s. While this book is well-meaning, I think a teen that’s on the spectrum would be better suited with a book that’s written by an author who’s also on the spectrum and understands the problem (and solution) isn’t as simplistic as presented here. I recommend the books “Look Me in the Eye”, “Be Different”, and “Raising Cubby”, all by John Elder Robison.

  9. Yeah, any book for people on the autism spectrum should really discuss the myriad ways their experiences can be different. I don’t see how this is helpful if it doesn’t even tell you polite ways to deal with sensory overload or processing issues. My favorite advice books for people with ASD tend to be things that use a lot of quotes from actual ASD people that talk about their own experiences and tips and tricks. It’s much easier to read through and figure out whether each piece of advice might be useful or not.

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