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The Hidden Curriculum: Tips for Dummies

People with ASD (high-functioning autism) have difficulty understanding the “hidden curriculum” (i.e., the set of routines, social rules, tasks, or actions that “neurotypical" people readily understand and use). Usually considered to be a matter of common sense, the hidden curriculum is rarely directly taught. Even so, it is an important facet of everyday life.

The hidden curriculum covers many areas. Thus, it is impossible to create a comprehensive list that applies to all people with ASD in all situations. The following is a brief list of hidden curriculum examples:

1. When your boss is chastising another employee for some reason, it's not the best time to ask him for a raise.

2. What is acceptable at your house may not be acceptable at someone else's house (e.g., although you may put your feet up on the table at your home, your friend may be upset if you do that in his or her home).

3. College professors don't all have the same rules. One professor may allow snacks to be eaten in the classroom, while another may have a problem with that.

4. Speak to police officers in a pleasant tone of voice, because they will respond to you in a more positive manner. Also, never  argue with a cop – even if you are right.

5. People don't always want to know the honest truth when they ask you a question (e.g., your girlfriend does not want to hear that she looks fat in a new dress she just bought)

6. People are not always supposed to be saying what they are thinking.

7. It is rude to interrupt someone when he or she is talking. Wait until they finish before you chime-in with your comments.

8. Don't touch someone while you are talking to them (e.g., tap them on the arm).

9. Don't tell someone that their house is dirtier than it should be.

10. Don't tell someone that they have bad breath.

11. Don't sit in a chair that someone else was sitting in just a minute ago.

12. Don't correct someone's grammar when they are angry.

13. Don't ask to be invited to someone's party.

14. Acceptable slang that may be used with your friends may not be acceptable when interacting with a different group of people.

Due to the fact that the hidden curriculum is not understood instinctively in the mind of a person with ASD, partners and/or spouses of these individuals may need to provide direct instruction to facilitate skill acquisition. 

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