• Understanding Autism from the Inside

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The Little Man’s Breakdown: Communication Misunderstandings

Caution: Speak with Care: He is going to take you literally!

I wish I could hang a sign on him!

My poor little man walked into the house and started sobbing—can’t catch your breath, snot running down your nose kind of sobbing. Apparently, his friend is being sent “away.”

“Just because he failed a test, Mom,” little man said, “they are sending him back to the Philippines!”

He proceeded to cry hysterically, and then kick things telling me how it is not right for them (the boy’s parents) to do that. Then he begged me to let the boy live with us. I tried to explain that I cannot just take other people’s children and let them live here. To which he responded, “Well, his parents are sending him away for someone else to take care of anyway so why can’t we just take care of him!” (Sigh)

Apparently, the boy who moved in down the block a few months ago did not do so well in school this quarter, and/or he failed a test. His parents yelled at him for his poor grades. I imagine that conversation probably went something like this:

You failed a test, if you’re not going to study or try harder I will send you back to the Philippines to live with your (aunt/uncle/cousin/you fill in the blank, but I think you get the idea).

The poor unsuspecting neighbors I imagine would never have dreamed of the wild whirlwind response their son’s friend would have to their idle “threat.” Yes, the little man did indeed confront them. He told them exactly what he thought of this plan of theirs. (Yikes)

No matter how many times I tried to explain to the little man that sometimes those are just things parents say, but don’t mean ,he would not believe me.

No, Mom—that is what they said!”

I did not have much luck getting him to understand that just because it is what they said, doesn’t mean it was true, or that they were really going to do it. This is a concept that he CANNOT grasp. I can’t even begin to imagine what the neighbors must have thought of his outburst; he needs to come with a warning label!

Now, if my little man (remember is only 9 years old) confronting the boy’s parents was not enough, Aspie Teen went over to verify the information! He was concerned about the little man being so upset and wanted to find out if it was really true that the boy down was being sent back to the Philippines! No, Aspie Teen did not “get it” either.

The Teen was gone and back with an explanation before I knew he left, or I would have stopped him.

Can you imagine the teen on your block knocking on your door asking you to explain yourself—for something you said to your own kid? Someone save us!

This is yet another example of the ASD child’s literal thinking, and his tendency to take things you say as absolute fact.

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Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.


  1. Yes, this is a problem . I’m sure the parents were completely sandbagged by it. But…. Aren’t you just a teeny bit .. Proud of them? They stood up for someone they care about. Your young one for his friend, your teen for his brother. No empathy my ass!!! I want to hug them both!

  2. What a caring big brother. 🙂

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