House, the genuine person, and autism

House had an episode on with a patient who had a frontal lobe disorder. The man said whatever passed through his mind, with no censoring. The internal man was drastically different than the man he presented to the world. I suppose the point of the episode was that without all the white lies, no relationships would be possible, although it could also have been that those relationships built on fragile lies of omission or commissions aren't real relationships. I haven't decided yet which 'truth' is more valuable, but it occurs to me that autism has elements of a frontal lobe disorder. I have three children who tell exactly what is on their minds the minute it's there, whether you want to hear it or not. My son can't help himself, can't regulate at all. If it's in his head, it will be uttered. That can get tedious, especially if it has been one of those days he's caught a program on UFOs or gangland. He'll go on and on until you could weep, or until your laughter at how out in left field his ideas are finally registers with him and he gets mad because you don't think aliens are amongst us.

What interested me most about the House episode itself was this idea of the internal versus external person and the tremendous disconnect that can occur when people censor themselves. People with autism, specifically those who haven't managed to effectively self-censor, are they more genuine? I like to think I am the same person in various situations, but I self-censor constantly. Okay, some of my students would point out that I don't always successfully self-censor, but for the most part, I do. I contain random thoughts that are not relevant to the situation I find myself in. So am I always genuine? Does self-censoring render one disingenuous? My students get the genuine professional me, a cleaned-up version without all the curse words prone to tumble out of my mouth. Okay, they don't get the gardening me, but there isn't any dirt in the classroom. Is the gardening me different from the teaching me?

What does it mean to be genuine? Is genuine all it's cracked up to be? Living with folks on the spectrum, I'd argue a little self-censoring would be nice. I'd be happy to receive a compliment or an expression of gratitude rather than the genuine reaction of ingratitude, but that's me 19 years into my journey of parenting autistic children.


jumblyMummy said...

I think we all have an internal vs external persona just that some of us learn, over the years, how to self-censor. Part of me thinks that the world would be that tiny bit more honest and exciting if we expressed what really was on our minds but I understand your pain when it comes to children and for you I guess it is more apparent than for me.

KWombles said...

Thanks jumblyMummy,

Ah well, in the nearly two years since I wrote this post, I think I've embraced this complete honesty better. It certainly helped when I removed the history channel and no longer had to deal with Gangland references. :)

And I know that I self-censor a whole lot less in the classroom; part of it is that I often use this blog in my classes (and have other specific blogs for the classes) so there is a seamlessness there. My children have taught me to be more authentically me, to be more direct, more honest, and perhaps most importantly, to let them pick out their own clothes and presents. It's a whole lot easier to get a genuine thank you that way. :)

Looking for Blue Sky said...

My aspie son has some self-censoring, but when he's on a roll about a favourite subject he has no idea when he has gone on too long! I have a bad habit of indulging him: He didn't speak for the first two years of his life, so I am still very thankful that he can't stop talking now x

Anonymous said...

I think there's a difference between being honest and being genuine. We may self-censor out of compassion for the people we're with, or in an attempt to find common ground or make a connection. Or we may do it because we understand it's a strategy to get what we want in that situation. These decisions to self-censor are as much a genuine expression of who we are as the words we hold back.

There are good practical reasons to censor myself around, say, the insurance company functionary who has the authority to approve payment for my son's therapy. In my twenties, I would have told her exactly what I thought about her because There Should Be No Lies In The World. I'd like to think my strategic thinking has improved since then, but maybe I'm flattering myself.

I love your blog more and more every time I read something new.

MommyToTwoBoys said...

This is a fabulous post. So insightful. It reminded me of so much in the book, Look Me in the Eye, by John Elder Robinson. If you haven't read it definitely grab a copy. He discusses his troubles with these issues in day to day life. Trying to censor himself and say what people want him to say.

Lavender Luz said...

I've been on a quest to be more authentic, so your question, "Does self-censoring render one disingenuous?" really makes me think.

I tried one day, several years ago, to say only things that were truthful, a la that Jim Carrey movie Liar Liar.

It was hard. And maybe not the best thing for relationships.

And it brought into question just what is truth. I mean, what about jokes or riddles? What about opinions? What about perspectives and conjecture?

I didn't find answers.

BlogGems #8

jazzygal said...

Hmmm..interesting concept Kim. I sometimes see correlations/crossovers between different conditions and Autism. it's quite interesting.

I too, like Blue Sky, who will go on and on about his favoured topic of the day... even when I've left the room!!

Great first post!

xx Jazzy (via Blog Gems!)

allison tait said...

What a great post. Plenty of food for thought. Found you via Blog Gems.

Life as the mother of 4 said...

I think the lack of self-censoring bites them! I don't mind and I don't get offended because my son has a great heart and tries to be very kind. But other people aren't as kind or forgiving. It's kind of sad.

Jen said...

This is interesting and something I haven't thought about as my son is so young yet and only recently making attempts to be verbal. My eldest is NT and everything just spills out his mouth, not sure if it is his age, or that he feels safe to do so at home or another spectrum trait, of which he has many!! Jen

Apples and Autobots said...

I have two kids on the spectrum, although one doesn't speak much. My son who does is very honest, but it's one of the things I like about him. If I want an honest opinion, I know exactly where to go!