Most parents are horrified the first time they realize their child has lied to them. But not autism parents. The first time one of our kids tells a lie KNOWINGLY we want to cheer. We want to throw a party. We want to shout it from the rooftops.
“MY CHILD TOLD A LIE!!!”
You see, in order to tell a lie you must be able to think of an alternate reality. In order to tell a lie you must craft a story. In order to tell a lie you must intend to deceive. Telling a lie involves a higher level of thinking – motor planning for your brain. And many autistic people have a really hard time being able to do this. Many people with autism live in a very “literal” world – meaning they take things very literally. They do not understand idioms. Many are incapable of lying, even to protect someone’s feelings or to be gracious.
ex. a person asks, “Do you like book I got you for your birthday?”
autistic person, “No, I wish you had gotten me a video game instead.”
So telling a lie is a very big developmental deal.
The first time my daughter with autism told a lie was third grade. That’s right third grade. It was morning, her least favorite time of the day. Getting up for school and dressed and out the door is difficult for her, just as it is for many “typical” kids. One morning she was giving me a hard time as usual as I pushed her to get her socks and shoes on. I was in the kitchen and heard the characteristic “beep” that the bus makes when it shifts into Park or Reverse, and called to her in the hallway where I knew she could see outside, “G, is that the bus?” After a split second she answered, “No, it’s the garbage truck.” I answered, “Oh.” A moment later I remembered it WASN’T garbage day. She had lied to me! Not only that, it was a GOOD lie because she made the connection that the bus AND the garbage truck made that same beeping sound! It was all I could do not to let out a cheer! Instead I had to put on my mean mommy face and confront her with the lie. I couldn’t manage too much anger though, because I was too happy!
What did I do after my daughter got on the bus? I called my husband and my mother, posted it on facebook and emailed her teacher!
This event didn’t make her a habitual liar – her lies are few and far between. But it was a sign of a definite developmental leap, and one that made me proud. The things that encourage and excite autism parents may seem strange to some folks, but there is a method to our madness. We celebrate accomplishment, no matter how little it may seem. We take nothing for granted.