On Our Bookshelf: The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations, by Brenda Smith Myles, Melissa Trautman, and Ronda Schelvan
Audience: Parents and caregivers of individuals with autism, Aspergers or other difficulties in social interactions
From the introduction of The Hidden Curriculum: “The hidden curriculum refers to the set of rules or guidelines that are often not directly taught but are assumed to be known. The hidden curriculum contains items that impact social interactions, school performance, and sometimes safety. The hidden curriculum also includes idioms, metaphors, and slang – things most people “just pick up” or lean through observation or subtle cues, including body language.”
Many children on the autism spectrum find it hard to understand the hidden curriculum that peers seem to naturally follow. For example, young adults will typically speak more formally to a grandparent, while they may use more “colorful” language around peers. During an elementary school band concert, most children will not proclaim loudly their opinion that the musicians sound horrible. While everyone in the audience may indeed be thinking the same thing, the hidden curriculum protocol for this situation is to sit quietly and congratulate the musicians on their hard work, rather than offer a critique. Many of our culture’s social expectations depend on the context at hand: it may be appropriate to greet a favorite cousin with a fist bump at the park, but not at a funeral. These concepts are typically not directly taught, and the majority of children will follow along, or respond to subtle cues, such as a parent pursing their lips and raising their eyebrows to indicate disapproval. Children on the autism spectrum have difficulty noticing and interpreting these types of social cues. They require more specific lessons regarding the hidden curriculum.
The Hidden Curriculum offers parents and caregivers a look into the complexity of social protocols, and presents lists of potential challenges in topics from personal hygiene, rules for different types of restaurants, and classroom guidelines. It also includes a list of common idioms and the meaning behind them (e.g. “You’re killing me” really means to make another person laugh, not actually kill them).
Available from major booksellers and the Autism Asperger Publishing Company.