Do you think people with autism can lie?

While being a “rule-follower” is often part of the personality and character make up of an individual on the spectrum, sometimes to the extreme that we might feel like they are policing a situation, that doesn’t necessarily correlate to always telling the truth. I regularly get asked the question “do you think people with autism can lie?” My answer to that is yes, but with a caveat. My experience is that my loved ones on the spectrum are not untruthful people. To the contrary, they are often very straightforward and honest about things that other people might address with a white lie or with an answer with a response that avoids the truth to some degree. Their tendency to see life in black and white rather than in shades of gray may cause them to create a hard line between their idea of the truth and a lie. That makes the subtler form of a white lie impossible (even the kind we might tell to spare someone’s feelings if they ask if we like their new haircut and it looks like it was done by Edward Scissorhands).

Raising a child on the spectrum can be confusing. I do have times when I feel suspicious that I have not been told the truth – or at least the entire truth. Recently my son indicated that he had completed and turned in some homework electronically, but there was no record of it to be found anywhere. He may very well have thought that he had done it and forgot or got confused, OR maybe he actually did it and simply made a mistake uploading it that makes it appear to me that he has not done it OR he may not have done the homework at all, and just told me he did to get me off his back. Either way he is not getting credit for it, but it would be so much easier for me to address if I knew what really happened. Since I don’t know, I have to make sure he understands the consequence of not getting it turned in properly. Now he will have to work harder on everything else to pass the class. After all, the world will not meet him halfway in the workplace or many other situations, so he needs to learn about consequences. On the other hand, I choose to temper that lesson with support and encouragement by understanding that his world is very difficult, confusing and frustrating at times. Branding him as an individual that doesn’t tell the truth might be the obvious hard line reaction, but I continue to give him the benefit of the doubt because he has autism, and sometimes I need to support the world according to the truth as he sees it, which can be as real to him as my social perspective is to me.