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No filter!!

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

I saw a post earlier asking parents of autistic children about funny things their children have said out of the blue.

It is said that autistic individuals have no filter. Not knowing when something shouldn't be said due to social etiquette. It can make social interactions and meet-ups somewhat difficult or awkward for them as individuals and for others, at times creating embarrassment or sometimes a providing a much needed laugh as more often than not there is an element of innocence to it all.

These things can be sayings they have heard from others and feel it is OK to use it themselves, something that may have been appropriate at the time and funny too but doesn't transfer to a different social situation. Sometimes we simply don't know that we shouldn't say it. Sometimes what we see it as factual information sharing, others see as rude. Sometimes it's a fact finding mission and the questions asked are one question too far.

There are times as a parent I've cringed but in fairness most of the times I've laughed, usually because there is always no ill intention meant. Things are said, asked or repeated due to a natural curiosity, honesty, literal thinking and also a need to fit in.

Sometimes it's not knowing when to stop talking. My son's SENCO in primary school has told me numerous stories. I remember being told my son, aged 8, argued with the headmaster at a point where other children know when to sit back and keep quiet. The voice of authority has spoken. Not my boy, he kept going much to everyone's surprise and I suspect hidden amusement given how it was relayed back to me.

Due to his natural curiosity and lack of filter, I am incredibly proud because over the years my son has asked or said the things that no one else has the nerve or courage to do, standing up for others or questioning the injustice of something.

As an autistic adult there are times I've also cringed at things I have said, usually a good while after when I rethink or process a conversation.

It got me thinking about my own son and also a few incidents of my own growing up.

I remember my sister having a friend over for tea. My sister had reported to mum that she had seen this friend stealing from a local shop and wasn’t sure about her but the invite was out there so mum said to go ahead.

Later on, at the dinner table, this girl said she wanted something, I can’t remember what. I do remember saying “maybe you could steal one”. I then got the dirtiest of looks from my sister and my mum jabbed me with her fork! I think I was about 9. Mum told me after that I should know better. I didn't, nobody told me I couldn't say anything and the fact was that she had already stolen something she wanted.

My son’s lack of filter has provided much amusement and some embarrassment. He has stated very loudly in the past that people are fat, smelly or rude and at which point I wanted to run away at break neck speed and pretend like it had never happened but ended up apologising and having a follow up chat with him explaining why he shouldn't really say things like that out loud.

As he has grown older he has relayed conversations with friends and I have actually stated that maybe he shouldn’t have said a certain comment and explained why. He’s relayed back that his friends have said to him about various comments too. Just like me. I still have friends telling me I can’t or shouldn’t say certain things. Over the years I have learnt that silence is a better option but I don't always get it right. I’m currently wondering if and when my son will realise the same.

When he was younger he got away with it because he was small for his age, with the cutest baby face and innocent smile. As he has got older and the baby face faded away, some things have caused offence and, at times, affected friendships. Telling a friend that they had "the worst spots ever” did not go down well and they didn’t speak for a few weeks. That took a bit of talking to help him see it from the other person's point of view. He still stood by it saying that at that time it was true, they were the worst spots ever, but has accepted that it’s not something he would like said to him.

Below are just some of his that stand out because they were cringeworthy or hilarious or both.

As anyone who knows kids will know, some occasions call for bribes. In our case it was haircuts, doctors visits and the dentist. We had just had a successful visit to the barber’s and headed over to the bakery across the road for his reward. My son walked in through the door, tripped and fell over. He got up and stated “ You had better give me compensation or I’m calling a solicitor”, waggling his finger very seriously. He saw the ads on TV and felt it was the right time to say it. He was 11. The whole place erupted and he left with a free bun and a tin of Fanta, along with the bun I owed him!

We had the police call to the door one afternoon. A little girl had been found and they were trying to find out who she was, where she lived etc. My son was in the hall behind me waiting to see who was at the door and on seeing the police yelled “Quick hide the drugs!!” and ran into the living room. I got a puzzled look from the policeman at the door. To this day I have no idea where my ‘in no way street savvy’ child had heard that saying but he had heard it somewhere. All I could do was shrug it off and blame his father stating he thought it was a funny thing to say when he saw the police. Quick thinking on my part and no we didn’t have drugs in the house!

The best was the least expected. We had a period where we went out to a cafe for tea on a Wednesday. It was a way of getting food into him as he wasn’t a great eater. Potatoes had to be made by my dad or he wouldn’t eat them, food could not show any signs of burning, chips got ends pulled off as they were too crispy, sauces couldn’t have any bits in them (sweet chilli sauce was part of his staple diet but it had to be strained for a while), the list was endless. I think he was about 8 at the time.

We were standing waiting to pay our bill and there was a gentleman in a wheelchair, not much older than me and I could see my son staring at him. He caught the man’s eye and the man smiled. That was an open invitation for my son to ask “Why are you in a wheelchair?” and was told “because my legs don’t work very well”. You could see my son’s cogs going at this point. Then he asked another question .... “And what about your willy??”

I’m not gonna lie, I wanted the ground to open up. I think the look on my face said it all as the man looked to me, smirked and replied “It works just fine, thank you”. Thankfully my son was content with the answer he got. He was fact finding. I apologised and was told there was no need. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to leave somewhere so fast before any further questions popped out.

Over the years we have called them 'Jamesisms'. I think back on them fondly, smiling at the memories. One day soon I’ll share jamesism logic stories. There are many of them too, all funny (to me anyway).

For now I hope you enjoy these, feel free to share your own stories in the comments underneath.


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