Autism, honesty & lying

Stuart Duncan


It’s certainly not that those with Autism can’t find something pleasant to say, or that they’re not capable of “lying” for the sake of being nice, but chances are that if you ask for their opinion on something, you’ll get an honest answer.

First of all, I don’t want you to think I’m stereotyping here at all because it’s not my intention. However, this does illustrate how, in some cases, this is very much the truth.

Yesterday, while Cameron (5 yr old with Autism) was at school, Tyler (3yr old without Autism) was home working with building blocks at the kitchen table. He is the little hands on one, needing to have a paint brush, marker, chalk or building blocks of some kind on the go at all times… but he’s 3. He’s doing well but let’s be honest, even stick figures are a little beyond him yet.

So Cameron gets home from school and Tyler’s very excited to show off his work… he has quite the large, elaborate collection of blocks strewn out about the table, in what to him, is a nice pattern.

As soon as Cameron gets close enough, Tyler runs and says “Look Cameron!! Look Cameron! Look what I did!”

Cameron drops his winter coat onto the floor and says “it’s nothing.”

This is where my wife and I step in and ask Cameron to say something nice, to be nice to his little brother, to make his little brother feel good… yatta yatta… Cameron continues to insist that it’s nothing, that there’s nothing else to say.

So we say that if he can’t be nice to his little brother, he’ll have to play by himself for a while to which he quickly says “no!! It’s a caterpillar!!”

It’s not that I want to be mean, I knew he’d change his tune (not exactly that he’d see a caterpillar though) and I really don’t want to teach him to lie exactly but learning to share a nice word of encouragement is a pretty important skill.

This hasn’t been the first time, not by a long shot. And you never really realize just how hurtful honesty can really be when all you’re trying to do is get someone to acknowledge your hard work… and you’re 3.

Over time, I’m sure he’ll learn to throw a “ya, that’s nice” just to avoid getting into trouble again but I also know that in the back of his mind, it’ll always be a conscious decision that he’ll have to make any time someone asks for his opinion.

When you say “be honest with me”… do you really mean it? Do you really know what you’re asking for?

If not, I welcome you to ask my 5 year old.

Courtesy of Stuart Duncan


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