Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, when Michael says wholly inappropriate (but completely true) things to people- I have to suppress the urge to giggle and give him a high five (SHHHH!!Don’t tell!). This has led me to a realization that I thought I would share.
While I know (and I DO know) that Michael absolutely must learn the basic rules of social interaction and common niceties in order to have healthy interpersonal relationships, it also saddens me in a way that we must “therapy” this out of him. There is definitely anxiety that comes along with being proper that right now he is free of. He doesn’t worry himself with whether he should, or shouldn’t express something. He never doubts whether he said something he shouldn’t have, or if he said it correctly. There is no guilt or indecision associated with being honest. Maybe it’s because as an opinionated person myself, I often struggle with these things, and that is why I am somewhat saddened by placing these burdens on him. I have to clarify, Michael rarely says things maliciously. He is generally just very factual (in-line with his worldview).
Yes, crazy woman in line at Walmart, you ARE being unreasonable, and you probably DO need a therapist to help you. Mrs. Neighbor, you just told a bold-faced lie, we all know it, and from now on we ARE going to doubt the things you tell us. Ms. Stranger Lady, your belly IS hanging out of your shirt and you really SHOULD buy a bigger one (they sell them really cheap at Goodwill if money is a problem).
The other realization I have had to face, is that by teaching him to interact with others successfully, we often must contradict other lessons we have taught him. This is very confusing for him, and often uncomfortable for me. At a recent evaluation, we had this exchange: (We were talking about why Michael struggles to make friends; I’m jumping to the middle of the conversation for time’s sake)
Doctor: And why don’t you want to be friends with him Michael? (referring to a classmate)
Michael: Because he lies.
M: Well, yesterday he said that he did his brothers (who’s in 11th grade) math homework for him. I know this isn’t true because he’s not that good at math.
D: OK, and what did you say when you heard this?
M: (With a look of exasperation that she would even ask this) I said I knew that was a lie.
D: Were other people around when you said this?
D: And how do you think that made him feel when you said that?
M: (with a fraction of a second pause) Like he probably shouldn’t lie???
There were other examples (There’s also 2 boys who are in so much of a rush to beat everyone at everything that they apparently do not sufficiently wash their hands after using the restroom). The doctor tried to explain that it is not Michaels place to correct everyone, and that this was not a good way to make friends (both true). Michael, for his part, was confused that we seemed to be implying that not only is lying OK, but that we would want him to be friends with people who lie. So how do we explain to a child who takes things very literally, and has a very hard time understanding social norms, that yes, lying is bad and you shouldn’t do it, but yes everyone does it (especially children), and it is to be expected? That there are in fact times when you should lie? You should be honest, but only in certain situations. You shouldn’t be friends with people who do bad things…..but only some bad things. The doctor eventually just moved on to something else (Read: gave up), and suggested that we (read: I) would have to work on that more later (Read: not on her time). It is amazing how much my perspective of the world has changed because of having a son with Autism. I know the “problem” of saying exactly what you are thinking is also a part of ADHD. Anyway, it’s all food for thought.
**As always- Please feel free to leave your own observations or experiences. Whether you’ve faced this yourself, as a parent, or even if you are neither and just want to throw something in- I would love to hear from you!!**