Life with Autism, Part II

One of the interesting things about being autistic is that I’m sometimes approached by others to speak about autism in adults. Last summer I was a guest speaker on a zoom call for the Nevada Association of School Administrators. NASA had asked me to talk about working with students on the high performing autistic spectrum. I was subsequently asked to address the Arizona Autism Coalition in October. Since this would have been an in-person presentation that would have required me to take a seven hour roundtrip drive to Phoenix, I declined the invitation in favor of launching Tasty-Candles on Shop Nevada.

Earlier this week I was approached by a colleague who is special education teacher. This teacher is pursuing an autism endorsement on his state certification. As part of his studies, he was asked to interview an autistic adult. When he asked me to share my life experiences, I gave him this link to my blog about “Life with Autism, Culinary Arts, Cats, and Candles.”

After thinking about it, I decided to also send him this link to a video that I uploaded to YouTube. The video is called, “How Autistic Me Thinks: The Bathroom Problem.” This film features my thought processes when confronted with disruptions to my daily class routine. In this video a student asked to use the restroom during instruction. Since school policy says that students are supposed to go before class or during the last 10 minutes of class, the first time this ever happened presented an internal conundrum as my need to follow school policy and structured routines clashed with a student’s biological needs.

As with so many other things in my life, this initial experience produced a precedent that made follow up requests much easier to resolve; at least until a couple of years ago when students began asking to “use the restroom” only to not come back to class. After a school administrator caught some of them lounging with friends from other classes in a hallway on the far end of the school with 20 minutes left before the end of class, I was reprimanded for not following school policy.

sometimes students really DO need to use the restroom

The sad reality is that sometimes students really do need to use the restroom regardless of what school policy actually says. Since I don’t want to be the teacher whose rigid adherence to school policy resulted in a student having an embarrassing accident (which could then also result in a visit from one or more angry parents), I now only allow students to go one at a time. Since the bathrooms are directly across the hall from my classroom, if time and circumstances permit I will watch to see if they’re actually going where they said they needed to go. Students who bypass the bathroom in favor of continuing down the hall to who knows where are then called back class. Their permission to use the restroom is rescinded. Students who want to complain about this are invited to address their complaints to the school administration. To date no one has ever taken me up on this because doing so would require them to explain where they thought they were actually going.

Part of the problem that I’ve had with students asking to use the restroom is that I lack the ability to know when they’re being truthful and when they’re lying about their need to go. Since I tend to be very rule conscious, I myself tend to be scrupulously honest. Although I know from my own childhood experiences that I am capable of lying, I also know that I’m a terrible liar. My problem with lying is that I feel so guilty for having violated the rules that I’m better off with never telling any falsehoods.

My inability to lie means that I’m not very good about knowing when people are lying to me. In addition to not ever knowing if students are being honest with their restroom requests, I’ve had supposed friends take advantage of my trusting nature. I’ve paid past due utility bills, reconnection fees, and delinquent rent and mortgages simply because they had asked me to do so. Since the friendship paradigm would suggest that friends are supposed to do favors for one another, it has taken me some time to notice that while I was paying bills, cleaning house, walking dogs, doing yardwork, and anything else to help out these friends; none of these efforts were ever reciprocated. Although I have purchased birthday and Christmas presents for these people, no presents were ever received in exchange.

This is one reason why I’ve embraced the life of a reclusive introvert. Since it doesn’t bother me to be alone with no other company than that of my cats, being alone also reduces the possibility that people will try to take advantage of me. It is for this reason that I do not respond to unsolicited texts, phone calls, emails, or postal offers from various supposed businesses because of the possibility that they will be fraudulent. I also won’t answer the door unless I’m actually expecting a visitor or a delivery.

If I need a specific product or service, I will get these myself. If a service offers me a contract, I will actually read the contract and will sometimes forward these contracts to a cousin who is an attorney.

Last year a solar panel company sent me a contract about installing panels on my roof. The contract said that the warranty would be voided if I allowed anyone on the roof other than their employees. Since I have engaged a roofing company to conduct an annual inspection of the roof and to clean the gutters, I asked the solar company’s service rep about this clause. Instead of honestly engaging me in a discussion or putting me in touch with someone who could amend the contract, she tried to pressure me into signing by saying that the contract offer of 20% below the company’s standard pricing would expire if I didn’t sign the electronic paperwork within the next 24 hours.

I did not sign the contract and subsequently added the service rep and her company to my list for blocked calls and emails.

According to a 2002 University of Massachusetts study, 60% of all people will lie at least once during a ten minute conversation. As an interesting side note, the study found that while women were more likely to lie just to make the person they were speaking with feel better about themselves, the men who told lies typically did so to make themselves look better.

I do not understand why anyone would behave this way. As the 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzche once observed, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

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