Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Understanding and Managing Social Challenges for Those With Asperger's/Autism

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Born with autism, both authors now famously live successful social lives. But their paths were very different. Temple's logical mind controlled her social behavior. She interacted with many adults and other children, experiencing varied social situations. Logic informed her decision to obey social rules and avoid unpleasant consequences. Sean's emotions controlled his social behavior. Baffled by social rules, isolated and friendless, he made up his own, and applied them to others. When they inevitably broke his rules, he felt worthless and unloved. Both Temple and Sean ultimately came to terms with the social world and found their places in it. Whether you are a person with autism, a caregiver in the autism community, or just someone interested in an "outsider" view of society, their powerful stories will enthrall and enlighten you.

Dr. Grandin and Barron address the social challenges those with autism and Asperger's face, explaining in the process how confusing and illogical normal societal rules can be. They also address the "unwritten rules" that most children understand instinctively but are a mystery to those on the spectrum. They teach how to trust feelings, be assertive in a positive way, and deal with negative people and situations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“If you’ve ever wondered, ‘What is going through my child’s mind? Why can’t he get social interactions?’ then this book is for you! ‘A-ha!’ moments abound.”
Veronica Zysk, editor of Autism/Asperger’s Digest and this book, both published by Future Horizons.


“I wish I had this book when Sean was a child. It would have helped me understand Sean so much more.”
Judy Barron, co-author of There’s A Boy In Here and mother of author Sean Barron.

“I would love to have the ten rules from page 119 as my screensaver!"
Lindsi Cavender, Person with Asperger’s Syndrome

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932565065
  • Publisher: World Future Horizons
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 383
  • Sales rank: 132,363
  • Product dimensions: 6.23 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Temple Grandin

As a child, Temple Grandin could not speak. Her silent existence was broken only by rhythmic rocking and occasional fits of screaming and thrashing. Diagnosed with autism, Temple’s many caregivers eventually helped her contradict her doctors’ morbid predictions and go on to become one of the autism community’s most beloved success stories. Temple Grandin, PhD, is a popular international lecturer on autism and the author of Emergence: Labeled Autistic, Thinking in Pictures, Animals in Translation, and Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships. One of the world’s leading experts in livestock facility design, over half of the cattle in North America are handled in facilities designed by her. She credits her visual thinking and her systemizing mind, both characteristics of autism, for her ability to be “the woman who thinks like a cow.” Temple continues to be an inspiration and role model to millions.

Sean Barron is a very interesting and intelligent young man who has faced the challenge of autism. He and his mother wrote an insightful book on their lives together. There’s a Boy in Here has won many accolades for offering the unique perspectives of two people who look at the same world but see and feel entirely different things. Mr. Barron has progressed to the point that it is difficult to even realize that he once was truly impacted by autism/Asperger’s Syndrome. He is now a freelance writer, lives independently, and recently co-authored Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships with Dr. Temple Grandin. Sean is a graduate of Youngstown State University, and works as a reporter for the Youngstown Vindicator. He’s pursuing a second degree in journalism.

Veronica Zysk has been working in the field of autism since 1991. She served as Executive Director of the Autism Society of America from 1991-1996, and then joined Future Horizons as Vice President of Administration. Veronica moved into an editorial position within the company in 1999, as Managing Editor and visionary for the first national magazine on ASD, the Autism Asperger's Digest, winner of several Gold awards for excellence. She continues in that position today. An award-winning book author, Veronica co-authored with Ellen Notbohm, 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, a Learning Magazine 2006 Teachers’ Choice Award winner, and has been the editorial driving force behind several collaborations with Dr. Temple Grandin: Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, winner of ForeWord magazine’s prestigious Book of the Year Silver Award and Dr. Grandin’s most recent autism release, The Way I See It, based on columns written for the Digest magazine.

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Table of Contents

Two perspectives on Social Thinking
Scene 1. My World is What I Do by Temple Grandin
Scene 2. A Different Perspective on social Awareness by Sean Barron

Two Minds: Two Paths

How the Autistic Way of Thinking Affects Social Understanding


The Ten Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships

Rule #1: Rules are Not Absolute. They are Situation-based and People-based

Rule #2: Not Everything is Equally Important in the Grand Scheme of Things

Rule #3: Everyone in the World Makes Mistakes.
It Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Day.

Rule #4: Honesty is Different than Diplomacy

Rule #5: Being Polite is Appropriate in Any Situation

Rule #6: Not Everyone Who is Nice to Me is My Friend

Rule #7: People Act Differently in Public than They Do in Private

Rule #8: Know When You’re Turning People Off

Rule #9: “Fitting In” is Often Tied to Looking and Sounding Like You Fit In

Rule # 10: People are Responsible for Their Own Behaviors


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Detailed Coverage of Unwritten Rules

    This book really covers the difficulties that people on the autism spectrum have with recognizing and implementing social behaviors everyone else takes for granted. Both authors give a lot of information about how they think and how they thought as children in addition to covering the overarching rules that govern our interactions whether we acknowledge them or not.

    The strong emphasis on personal responsibility and understanding how and when to be flexible makes me feel that this book would be good reading for a lot of people who are not on the autism spectrum but still seem to have missed the memos on those topics.

    I would highly recommend this book both to my fellow autism-spectrum brethren and to any parent or teacher who is bewildered by a child on the spectrum.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A great resource for adults diagnosed with AS

    I have been reading Temple's work for more than two decades. This book is by far her most practical and useful. Temple and Sean collaborate to create a resource that is without parallel. They often speak to parents and clinicians in their writing, but as an adult with AS, I found this to have direct and immediate applications for my everyday life.

    I have used the 10 rules and the hundreds of tips and "points to keep in mind" as a guide to identifying social skills I need to better develop. Sometimes I found myself thinking back to when I learned a particular rule. Other times the content provided and Ahha moment in which a mystery of social etiquite was first comprehensible to me. To help me learn the rules and to think through how to apply them in my life, I went through and typed out each rule, point to remember, and italicized sentence that was new or that put words around a concept I previously did not understand. The resulting document (a bulleted list more than 20 pages single spaced long) has been useful as I work with a coach one rule at a time to check whether I am correctly understanding and applying the rule.

    One feature of this book I especialy like is that Sean and Temple share their sometimes very different perspectives on the topic along with stories about how they learned a rule. They richly illustrate the diversity of social and life experiences that adults on the spectrum may have had. They use their differences as an opportunity to remind readers that there may be more than one "right" way to deal with a difficult situation.

    Another feature I appreciated was the work done by Editor Veronica Zysk to weave the Temple and Sean's stories together to form a coherent whole. She occassionally adds narration to the text to help the reader understand the thought processes being described.

    If you have (or think you might have) AS and you are looking for a self-help resource on social rules, you will not find a finer one than this book. The book is especially helpful for adults with above average IQ who struggle to understand the unwritten rules that most people seem to understand intuitively.

    I also strongly recommend this book for parents, teachers, and therapists who work with children, teens, and adults with AS.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Must Read

    Temple Grandin is credited with bringing the tough subject of autism out in the open. She is a strong advocate for autistic adults and children in securing the type of education and emotional support they need. Her first book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, is a seminal work that makes you rethink your notions of what it means to be autistic. In this book on social skills, Temple and her coauthor Barron break down the mystery of social relationships so that they make more sense to the autistic mind.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2009

    Finally! Somebody gets it!

    This is one of the best books I have ever read in conjunction with the "unwritten" rules society places upon those on the spectrum - rules that everyone else understands and accepts, but ones that do not make sense to the rest of us!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 6, 2010

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    Posted December 29, 2010

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    Posted September 26, 2009

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