Tag Archives | honesty

If you can’t say something nice…

I know, my mom was the only mom to ever use that expression, right?  No?

I think it’s one of, if not the, first lesson most of us can remember having learned… because right around the time we start retaining memories for later is about the same time that we learn to just say what ever is on our mind.

Before kids learn to lie, they learn to be honest… brutally honest. If your ass looks fat in those jeans, your little one will tell you about it.

I bet my mom never imagined it would be like this

So now I’m a grown up, I have children of my own and I get to sling the old cliché’d lessons around too… but it’s not the same for me. As the parent of an autistic child, I have a better chance of teaching this lesson to my 3 year old than I do my 6 year old son with Autism.

Autism is classified as a social impairment and a lack of fundamental understandings in communication… more to the point, autistics have a hard time maintaining friendships, relationships and even simple conversations.

One of the reasons for this is that people in society aren’t very good at accepting brutal honesty. To most people, an insult is an insult… whether it’s true or not. If you call an ugly person ugly… you’re insulting them.

Why? Because of generations and generations of people saying “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Would we still take offense to brutal honesty if people didn’t say that? Probably. Still though, when you think about it… it’s actually rather silly.

Essentially people have become so insecure that hearing a negative, even when true, is an insult. And so we teach people not to say anything unless they have something nice to say.

Autism – “don’t say anything at all”

Now I’m presented with two problems that my own mother never had to deal with…

  1. People, especially children, with Autism are already less likely to say anything at all. Either from being non-verbal to begin with or being socially unable, either via anxiety or fear or what have you. So telling an autistic child not to say anything at all becomes very counter productive.
  2. People, again, especially children, with Autism are very much inclined to say what they believe to be true, whether nice or not. Lacking social aptitude as well as having a lack of understanding how and what other people think, they don’t tend to take into consideration how what they say will affect others.

So not only does this expression discourage my son from speaking but it also puts a very heavy weight on him as he will either never know, or never know with any certainty, if what he is about to say is something nice or not.

First, I encourage him to tell the truth and not lie… then I have to tell him not to tell the truth when it’s not nice. This is a lot for any child to deal with, so how well is it going to be taken by a child that is unable to comprehend what others may or may not be thinking.

What to do?

if you dont have anything nice to sayWell, I can’t really go around society convincing people to just be more secure with themselves and accept a little honest criticism sometimes… I’m pretty sure even I can’t live up to that expectation all the time…. although it is a nice thought.

Do I tell my son the same old cliché in hopes that he can figure it out and make the most of it? Do I hope that it doesn’t only complicate matters for him?

Ultimately, this comes down to the age old debate that sometimes still causes arguments among parents of autistic children… do I help my child to conform and be a part of society or do I allow him to be his own person, which in all likelihood will make him a better person but also cause a lot of problems for him down the road?

The problem is, there is no one right or wrong answer and certainly not an easy one.

The best that I can do, for me, I think, is to convey the message but abandon the cliché. It’s true, I need for him to understand when to speak up and when not to, to consider the thoughts and feelings of others but it’s also true that I can’t put the same kinds of expectations on him that my mother put on me.

In other words, I can’t just cliché him to death and expect him to get it.

In the television show Parenthood, Max (child with Autism) tells a former alcoholic that he shouldn’t go to a party because he’s an alcoholic… Max’s sister is quick to respond, as though Max shouldn’t be rude, but the former alcoholic says “it’s ok, he’s just looking out for me. I should be as honest with myself as he is.” and realizes that Max is right.

A part of me never wants to squash that in my son. There’s something there to be admired.

It’s a delicate balance I think… not an all or nothing system. Which just makes it all that much more difficult. I don’t want my son to never speak up for fear of not being nice but I also don’t want him unintentionally offending everyone he meets.

Unfortunately, you won’t get any solid answers from me on this one… this is a life long lesson that even the best of us sometimes still wrong.

Like many things, this is going to be a process… one that will hopefully help him to understand society and his place in it as well as to help me learn some new things along the way as well.

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Autism and the honest opinion, where does it all go wrong?

Normally I write posts to help describe Autism traits to those without Autism but recently, I was asked by @ThatSPKid about a previous post I made called “Do you really want my honest opinion?

So I thought I’d take the opportunity to change it up and explain to those with Autism a trait that the rest of us share (well, most of us anyway).

The problem

You have a friend or loved one that asks you a seemingly trivial question, usually about themselves personally. Some of our favorite questions include “how do I look?”, “do I look like I’ve gained weight”, “what do you think of what I’ve done?” and of course, “do these pants make my butt look big?”

You get the idea.

The problem here is that a person with Autism is likely to answer honestly… the first answer to enter their mind, the obvious answer, the honest truth, is likely to be what leaves their mouth.

Chances are, unless the person asking is a super model, and even then, they’ll likely not want to hear the truth.

What a person really wants

When a person asks for a personal opinion from someone, unless they are very secure and confident in themselves, will likely not be able to handle the absolute truth, unless they truly do look fabulous and your opinion of them really is a perfect 10.

When a person asks a self gratifying question, they do it because they want re-assurance… or, as I like to call it, ego stroking.

If a person asks about how they look, that means that they’re concerned and need you to tell them that they’re just being paranoid and that they look great.

People know when they’re fat, they know when their look is questionable, they know when the artwork they did is amazing or not.. what they want from you is to reassure them, validate their feelings or simply… to give their ego a boost.

Why so upset?

Some people are more than capable of hearing the truth and may accept the fact that you find they look fat and therefore will simply choose to wear something else or hit the gym after… and they won’t be upset with you in the slightest.

But those that aren’t so secure in themselves won’t take it so well and very likely will get upset with you. Not because they think what you said was untrue but it’s because they already knew what you’re saying, they just wanted you to make them feel better and you didn’t.

For no real rational reason what so ever, they asked you a question to which they knew there was a good chance they’d get a negative answer, especially if they already knew it to be true, and yet they asked it anyway anticipating you to make them feel better about themselves.

How do you know when to say the truth?

For the most part, a person will make it very obviously clear that they can handle the truth and if they do and still get offended, then you know not to repeat it next time. But if they take it as constructive criticism and don’t get mad then you’re free to be yourself.. your honest self.

However, it’s a good general rule of thumb that anyone, anywhere, that asks a question about what you think about them, their weight, their look, something they created and so forth is simply looking for your appreciation… you to give their ego a boost.

If you do tell them they look great or what they created is wonderful and they push you further, asking if that’s really your honest opinion, then it’s ok to give more honest feedback.

Encouragement or Discouragement

In the case of a person’s efforts, your honest opinion may make the difference between whether or not a person is encouraged to do better next time or discouraged from ever doing it again.

My children are a perfect example, which is what I used in my previous post. My 3 year old (Tyler) put a bunch of blocks together in what he felt was a nice pattern. He showed my 5 year old (Cameron) with all the pride a person could possibly have to which Cameron replied that it was nothing and just dismissed it.

He was right, it really was nothing. It was a 3 year old putting blocks together in no real pattern or anything.

However, my 3 year old was proud of it and would very likely continue to play with his building blocks and get better and better.

With proper encouragement, he could one day become an architect or engineer should he continue to enjoy working with building blocks. But if he shows off his work at the age of 3 years old and is discouraged from ever trying again… well, becoming a builder is likely not to be in his future.

In this case, someone that does not have enough expertise is not going to put together a masterpiece but is looking for positive feedback simply to help encourage himself to proceed further, to keep trying harder.

Anyone that is just starting something is likely to do poorly at it, but relative to their experience level, it might be right on par to what they should be able to do. And when they come to you for feedback on it, they’re looking for that encouragement. They need to know that they’ve done well and their work is “amazing”… because it will give them that push to keep at it.


There’s no perfect science to this… everyone is different and some people really want the honest truth and that will be what motivates them to look better, lose weight to try harder… but for the most part, it’s a safe assumption to say that the person just wants you to tell them what they want to hear.

And what most people want to hear is something that will make them feel proud, feel happy and feel encouraged. Appreciate is what feeds most of us what we need to push ourselves harder… we’re not nearly as good at taking constructive criticism as we tell people we are.

Put it this way, when someone asks you a personal question, think of it as a multiple choice question. There is a) the truth and b) what they want to hear.

Unless ‘a’ matches ‘b’ (the truth is what they will want to hear) or they’ve proven themselves to be very good at handling the truth without being offended… you’re probably best off taking a moment to consider both options before giving your answer.

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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.

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Blogging about our children, use their real names or a pseudonym for privacy?

First off, this is something that has actually be on my mind for a while but it wasn’t until a well thought out post on another blog generated a lot of discussion, including one attack, that I really felt compelled to speak up about this.

Read the blog post here: http://bigdaddyautism.com/?p=1207

PrivacyI am very honest and very sincere in everything I do, especially when it involves a topic as important as Autism. This blog not only has my real name, but it’s the title… it’s even the URL address!

The question is whether or not my son would approve of me using his real name later in life… will he be embarrassed by it? Will others use this as a way of teasing or mocking him?

Autism Advocacy

I write about Autism. This is a personal blog but it’s not my personal blog about our vacations, times we’re sick, going to visit family, etc… it’s not a diary. It’s a blog advocating Autism, or more specifically, mine and my son’s stories and experiences.

As such, I write so that others that read will know that they’re not alone… maybe they’ll even feel inspired, motivated, educated… maybe they will be able to relate to the things I say.

This means that I have a lot more readers that I don’t know than I do readers that I do know. These people will likely never meet me nor my son face to face. But those that do know me will know a lot more about myself and my son than they did previously. But this is a global topic, Autism is simply so much bigger than just me or my son.

Honesty and Trust

A great writer can capture your hearts and your trust by the words they say. Sadly, most of us are not great writers. We’re people, we’re parents… and we’re simply trying to be involved in the community by sharing what we can. Therefore, making you cry, making you trust us, making you believe the words we say are the honest to goodness truth can be quite a daunting task.

I believe that being upfront and honest with my name adds to a reader’s faith in me. That I have nothing to hide nor anything to be ashamed of.

I recently read a new spinoff Superman comic, Earth One. In it, Superman talks to his mother about the costume she made… and asks why there is no mask. Her reply to him is that, with his power, people will fear him. They need to be able to see his face, to see his innocence and honesty so that they can know they can trust him. A mask would only make people fear him more, make them question him, make them not trust him.

I do like to think of my son as a little Superman, but I realize that it’s not great power that he has. It’s a disorder. Even still, his message is a very powerful one and a mask would always get in the way of that message… it would always leave a little doubt.

Shame and Embarrassment

Let’s be honest, you could be the best words-smith on the planet and paint your child in the brightest most noble light and other kids would still try to use it against them in the schoolyard. Teasing and mocking comes from the strangest places sometimes.

If you would like to protect your child from that sort of thing then using a pseudonym is definitely a good way to go. However, don’t think that those children won’t find some other way to tease your children.

I think of it as the old pillow armour, you try to put up all this padding around your child to make sure that no one can ever do them any harm and not only do they still get teased, but they’re teasing them about your pillow armour!

Whether you use a pseudonym or not, if you write from the heart and you write with honesty and good intentions, there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

One of the most important lessons in life for every child is to drown out or ignore those that try to mock your integrity. Shielding your child away from having to face that will not help them learn that lesson. They’ll likely have to learn it eventually anyway, so what does it matter if it’s your blog that becomes the trigger?

I can tell you one thing, if one blog post of mine positively affects one other human being, I will never ever have any regrets for posting it, no matter what names or contents I had put into it. I would hope that, later in life, my son agrees with that. If I use his name and someone else’s life is better for it, he should be proud, not embarrassed.

Levels of Privacy

The average person fears the internet a great deal and has every right to do so. There is a lot to fear because really, the world is out there… the best of it and the worst of it. I still know many people who absolutely refuse to use their credit card online yet use it often over the phone. The internet has multiple levels of encryption and security, a phone has none. Hmm…

Unfortunately for all those average people, there are a lot of above average skilled people on the Internet that could find your real name with a little digging in the right places. So the only people you’re really protecting yourself from are the other average people.

If you do take all the precautions necessary and never once enter your name into a computer, then maybe… but only maybe. Because there are still ways to track your accounts back to you.

I don’t mean this as a way to scare you, quite the contrary. You’ve been online all this time and you’re fine, right? I’m still here and I’ve been online for far too long! The thing is, you can be very very very private or only a little bit private. You’ll likely never be completely private unless you really know what you’re doing.

Conversely, think of all those people who offer their children up for the brochure photos, billboards… commercials even! Those people are all still doing alright. I don’t think they’ve had to endure any more school yard bullying than anyone else.

I’m going to guess that you haven’t taken it to that extent but think about those people that have. Their children are REALLY out there. And they’re probably extremely proud to be making a difference. To be the kind, warm and trusting faces that you and I need to see in those commercials.

So Many Reasons

There are so many reasons for wanting or even needing privacy. I can’t even begin to go through them all but sometimes there are legal issues, or a disagreeing husband or wife, perhaps you’re writing about things that are much more personal than just specific Autism related stories… the list is endless.

Then again, perhaps you really are using a pseudonym simply because you don’t want to use anyone’s name without their informed consent, even your own child’s.

Everything I have written in this blog post is my own personal opinion and my own personal reason for making the decisions I’ve made. I understand completely why and how people make their own choices.

I would never, for a second, doubt that someone is very proud of their child even though they hide them behind a fake name. You don’t have to reveal an identity to reveal your pride. You also don’t have to tell us your name for us to believe you or to learn from you.

This is Who I Am

My wife is a very private person, even after joining a forum where all people see is a user name, she still never really opened up to anyone for almost a year and a half. Suffice to say, she was skeptical when I started this blog.

However, she very quickly saw the need to share who I really am and to share my son with the world. I guess I should say, my need.

When you read my blog posts, I don’t write like a doctor, I don’t write like a writer… I write like me. And to use another name is to write like someone else. To pretend to be someone I’m not.

This is who I am, a very proud father. My son is absolutely amazing and I know that so long as I believe that through and through, and so long as I write with honesty and sincerity, those who read it will think that my son is amazing as well.

I can’t even imagine writing something that would embarrass him or make him feel any shame because I can’t think of anything that would qualify. He’s an inspiration to me and hopefully, through him, I can be an inspiration to others.

My Son, Cameron.

Cameron is his name, it is the name I gave him and the name I will never be afraid to share with the world. I do not know what the future holds in store for him but I like to think that what I do now, with this blog or otherwise, that he can be proud of me.

I also hope for a future where, despite still having Autism, he continues to speak out and inspire people with me. That he has a ‘normal’ and fulfilling life but is able to continue raising awareness, continue getting involved with the Autism community.

It’s not a guarantee though. I would never force him into anything in his life. If he isn’t comfortable with that or has no such desires, that’s fine too. I will be no less proud of him, he will be no less of an inspiration to me.

I will, however, make sure that he knows that what I do, what I say, is bigger than just him. That I would do anything for him, that I do everything for him, but also that there are so many out there that need an encouraging word, a little advice.


I’m getting off topic here but the point is, you reading this, is very important to me. I owe you the truth. And the response that I’ve received from readers like you has been astounding.

I honestly believe that the wonderful feedback and support I’ve received through blog would not be anywhere near the same level if I couldn’t be completely upfront and honest with you.

That’s not to say that you or anyone else couldn’t use a fake name and get the same response. It’s just how it is for me. It’s how it always has been for me and always will be.

What’s truly important is that no matter what name you have, no matter what name you use, be honest and sincere. If you speak the truth and you keep the bigger picture in mind, there can be no shame in the future.

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