Teaching Social and Emotional Concepts to Youth with Asperger Syndrome (page 2)

By — Autism Society
Updated on Sep 10, 2009

Figure 2: Memo

To:  John
From:  The Office
Re: Unknowingly hurting other people’s feelings

It has come to our attention that you often say things to other people that hurt their feelings. You probably don’t mean to hurt people’s feelings. You might think that you are just being honest. Since people often judge other people by the words they say, we thought it would be a good idea to help you understand a little more about this.

Nice words or really sweet words make other people feel good about themselves. Whenever you make another person feel good about himself, chances are that person is going to feel good about you too. If you were to think about this on a number scale, you might say that these sweet words are at #1 because they are so easy and not overwhelming.

Number 2 on the scale might be just fine words. These are words that most people feel comfortable with. These are pretty friendly words like “hi” or “what’s up?”  Even waving without saying words could be considered #2.

Number 3 would be hurtful words. This is kind of hard to understand because you might not realize that the words are hurtful, so you need to be really careful. Telling someone they are fat would be using #3 words. People know their own flaws; actually most people are more aware of their own flaws than anyone else!  People don’t like to be reminded of their flaws. If you use #3 words, other people will probably choose to stay away from you. These are not friendly words.

Number 4 words are angry words. These words can sometimes slip out (like swear words), but it is pretty important that we keep them in control. If you use #4 words in front of your teacher, you are likely to get in trouble. If you use #4 words in front of your boss at work, you might get fired. If you use #4 words in front of your girlfriend’s parents, you may not have a girlfriend anymore!  People are very cautious and sometimes worried around people who use #4 words.

Number 5 words are actually dangerous words. These are the worst possible words. These words make other people think you are going to hurt them. These words are actually against the law, even if you think you are only kidding. Saying you are going to kill someone or bring a gun to school are examples of #5 words. You will get in trouble at school, fired from a job and probably lose a few friends if you use these words.

The 5-Point Scale is one example of how educators, parents and other caregivers might support individuals with AS in their attempts to solve social problems or to better understand emotional concepts. It is important to recognize and respect a systematic learning style as a learning strength. Using systems to teach information we typically teach through social and emotional language can help a person with AS begin to grasp the otherwise “hidden” curriculum of relationship.


Attwood, T. (2006). The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishing.

Baron-Cohen, S., & Golan, O. (2008). Systemizing Emotions: Teaching people on the autism spectrum to recognize emotions using interactive multimedia. Chapter in Learners on the Autism Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators, edited by Kari Dunn Buron & Pamela Wolfberg. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Buron, K.D. (2007). A 5 is Against the Law! Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.

Buron, K.D. (2007). A 5 Could Make Me Lose Control! Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.

Buron, K.D. (2006). When My Worries Get Too Big! Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.

Buron, K.D., & Curtis, M. (2003). The Incredible 5-Point Scale. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.

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