Do you really want my honest opinion?

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.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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6 Responses to Do you really want my honest opinion?

  1. Lisa March 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    I’m at this place with Racer, I guess “teaching” him to be like everyone else. I think its more of being polite then lying. But only we know its more about not breaking our kids heart even if it is “nothing”.

    Sometimes that honesty bone in our kids is a tough one to swallow.

  2. Jen March 3, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Katie is learning this type of thing in social skills. It’s not teaching to be like everyone else, but to understand others have feelings different than her own, or that they have feelings at all. ASD kids don’t typically think about that and is why they can come off harsh. It is a very important real-world skill, for sure.

  3. The.Baroness.von.korf March 3, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    As a speech pathologist, I had to teach this skill, in our case a specific phrase to an autistic four year old. Her obsession at that time was babies and pregnant women. Only problem is she was walking up to pregnant women and telling them that they were fat or up to new mothers and critiquing the baby’s appearance. We taught her to walk up to the pregnant woman and say “I hope you’re feeling well today” or to the new mother to say “All babies are cute.” Since they struggle with theory of mind (the fact that other people have their own ideas and emotions separate from their own) we often have to teach them these skills. Sometimes we start by teaching appropriate phrases for specific situations, them move on to why we say those things. It tends to take a very long time and some of my clients are yet to understand. I never really took into consideration how much of our social structure is set on little white lies until I started working with an autistic group.

  4. Big Daddy March 4, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Around here, the brutally honest thing makes for som interesting conversations as well. I’m just happy my wife never asks Griffin if her pants make her butt look big.

  5. Gina @ Special Happens March 8, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    That’s got to be one of the hardest things to teach…okay, there’s a lot of hard things to teach with Autism….J either says nothing, shakes his head in the affirmative (even when that might be the wrong answer) or manages a smile while looking in the other direction. Clearly, his mind is on something much more ‘important’.

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