When I told Hubby yesterday about an email from reading teacher Mr. J saying that Mae told him he smelled “very bad” and should maybe take a shower, Hubby asked “Well, is it true? Does he smell?” Hubby was being funny (I think), yet his question highlights the difficulty of getting Mae to realize and accept that she should keep some thoughts to herself. Mr. J said that he didn’t think Mae meant any harm. Knowing Mae as I do, she probably thought she was being helpful to Mr. J.
When I told Mae that she should not tell someone that they smell bad because it’s hurtful, she responded, “But he smelled bad to me.” I tried again, “Even if someone does have an odor or you think they do, you should not tell them so because it may hurt their feelings. And, this applies for grown-ups and kids.”
She gave me a you-don’t-get-it look, and said defiantly, “I think he smelled bad, and I can tell him.”
I repeated myself, and as I did, I knew that it wasn’t working. She’d turned away and it was clear that she wasn’t in a receptive mood. I will have to try again later, in a different way, to make the point. The good news is that Mr. J’s email also said that Mae did very well yesterday on following instructions and completing her work.
I am beginning to understand better the difference between a kid being a kid and saying something inappropriate, and the lack of judgment and self-checking that goes with Asperger’s. It’s not that Mae is unaware that certain comments can be mean or hurtful. If I ask her how she would feel if she were on the receiving end, she consistently says “sad.” If I ask her how she thinks the listener feels when she says something mean, she consistently says “sad.” However, she often speaks without checking herself first. And, bam, she’s in trouble again, not understanding what’s wrong with speaking something that she has observed.
So, this weekend, in between unpacking the inflatable pool and throwing something simple on the grill, I’ll be flipping through some books trying to find ways to describe and demonstrate self-checking.