It’s Not a Lie If You Believe It

autism questionIf there is one thing Hayley could be accused of it is being honest. When she was young, she would tell complete strangers what kind of nose they had. People typically had a hawk, pig, or bear nose. She didn’t mean to be rude; she just happened to be noticing noses that year. It is difficult to censure someone who had difficulty learning to talk in the first place. A part of you wants to celebrate that what they said actually made some sense and the other part of you cringes at what came out.

One of the ways you can tell an honest person is that they will always tell on themselves. Hayley has done this since she was able. It didn’t matter that there might be a consequence as a result; she just had to tell the truth, no matter what.

What has made me sad, over the years, is when she has been accused of lying. I have worked with Hayley for quite some time to try and see other people’s perspective. I have had some success, but this is a very advanced skill. Today, for instance, she was showing me an American Girl doll she wanted to buy. One of the reasons she wanted to buy it was because it looked like her. She said her hair was parted on the left like hers. The dolls hair was actually parted on the right, but I was unable to make her understand that if the doll was facing the same direction that she was facing, their parts would be on different sides. This is an indication of her inability to see things from other perspectives.

Simply put — if Hayley believes it, it must be true. That poses problems when trying to get along with co-workers, job coaches, and even family members. Add to that Hayley’s extreme sensitivity and you have now complicated things quite a bit. She is able to detect such small things as a sigh, a deep breath, and many other subtle signs of irritation, frustration, anger, fatigue, or impatience. The problem is she often interprets those signs as directed toward her.

If she senses someone being impatient with her she may state: “Stacy yelled at me!” Stacy thinks Hayley is intentionally lying. But I have learned to ask Hayley questions such as . . .

What words did she use when she yelled?
Where was she standing?
Was she looking at you?

Eventually, through questioning her, I will uncover that Stacy didn’t actually yell or say anything at all. Hayley sensed some tension and “read their mind.” The tension made her feel as though they were angry and wanted to yell at her. She will believe this so strongly that, in her mind, it may as well have happened. I can usually talk her through this, but it is time consuming. It is much more difficult to do if the person overreacts and calls her a liar or says, “You’re not telling the truth.” This confirms Hayley’s assumption that they are angry with her.

So, if you ever have two people telling different stories and wonder which one is lying — the answer may be neither.

2 Responses to “It’s Not a Lie If You Believe It”

  1. Lana Kentner

    So my husband does this a lot. He has a lot of Asperger tendencies, but he is very astute. His rash judgements and assumptions make it nearly impossible to communicate and resolve concerns. So in his mind it’s true…then what. If it’s delusional then how do you talk them in to reality. Anything other than agreement with him is considered starting a war with him. Even when it’s a very untrue principle. Do you have suggestions or solutions?

    • Susan Greer

      I’m sorry Lana, I never saw this comment today until it came up in my “memory” Facebook feed. The only suggestion or solution that works for me is to stay very calm. If I have any tension in my body she can feel it. So, I often say a silent quick prayer and breathe slowly. The best way to proceed is to ask questions. If you ask the right questions you can lead the person down a path to finding their own correct conclusion. This would be question that ask for evidence. i.e. Starting with surface questions that aren’t too probing but show your concern and that you care. Sometimes it is better to ask questions allowing them to vent frustrations first and get them off their chest before you start truth seeking. So how did that make you feel…. and then what?… See my post on holding time. December 2012