Autism and Lies

One of the good things about autism is that many people with autism are unable to lie…or so the literature says. Maggie lies to me every damn time I ask her if she made the mess or ate my cookie. She likes to laugh in the face of stereotypes. And in my cookie-less face for that matter.

"No, I haven't seen your lipstick..."

“No, I haven’t seen your lipstick…”

If sneakiness counts as lying, and I think it does, then she could teach a master class on the subject. She knows what she is and isn’t allowed to do and she loves to push the boundaries. Like at Christmas when she was plotting to steal the Advent calendar from the family room. She knew that I was watching her from the kitchen table, but she apparently thinks she is either a rabbit or in a cartoon, because every time I looked up she would freeze, clutching the calendar like I wasn’t going to notice. When I tilted my head down toward the table she would advance further on her path to freedom – her bedroom.

Even when she was quite young she was a schemer. I used to use a dishpan inside the sink to hold the dishwater – don’t ask me why – my mother always did so I blindly did too. A friend asked me why – she said it’s a British thing to do – and I had no idea. I’m more Irish than British, so perhaps I was supposed to fill it with whiskey. But I digress…Maggie wasn’t tall enough to reach the tap yet, but she could play with the water in the pan if I left it full, in a re-enactment of Waterworld, so I quickly learned to dump it out when I was finished. I was visiting with friends one day when she stole my large cup of water and ran into the kitchen to dump it in the dishpan. But the brilliant part (keep in mind that she was only around three) was that she brought the cup back and put it beside me so that I wouldn’t go looking for it. I already know I am losing my mind… I don’t need a toddler going out of her way to cement that idea.

Other times she is brutally honest, in that innocent way that young children are. I know better than to ask her if my pants make me look fat.

She tends to out herself a lot too…narrating her plan, saying, “No Maggie,” or walking on her tip toes with her hands held like Swiper’s.

Molly on the other hand fully fits the stereotype – I can’t recall ever catching her in a lie, and when we give her social coaching (I know…talk about the blind leading the blind), we have to help her find solutions that don’t involve a white lie but won’t hurt other people’s feelings either. She has had a few lies by omission and usually comes to us weeks or months later unable to deal with the crushing guilt she feels.

Grace is not on the autism spectrum and I’m pretty sure she has the whole lying thing down cold. I can tell she isn’t being honest sometimes when I ask her something. She looks me in the eye and everything. But I can see the brain wheels turning. I think her head is a series of loopholes and exceptions, so she is looking for the right clause to let her off the hook. Luckily it is never about something serious, and other than that she has a pretty rock-solid moral compass. But I will absolutely be hiring a private investigator to follow her around every day once she is in high school. After that I will be filling out her law school applications.

How do you handle lying with your kids? Do you waterboard them until they confess, lay a series of traps so you can catch them, or just accept it as a part of growing up?

Netflix has a whole bunch of titles that deal with the issue of lying. I just finished season four of Downton Abbey – that Dowager Countess of Grantham sure tells the truth – she’s my favourite character, although I’m glad she’s on the screen and not being brutally honest with me! I’m in the market for a new series so Bloodline came along at the perfect time. I hear that it is fantastic, and I can’t wait to check it out. Liar Liar is an old favourite in which Jim Carrey’s character, a lawyer and chronic liar, becomes unable to lie after his son makes that his birthday wish. I have a date with that movie this weekend. Because I’m not going to lie…the past three weeks have darn near killed me.

For the littles:


  1. Super Why!: S1,E15: Humpty Dumpty and Other Fairytale Adventures: Pinocchio
  2. Curious George: S1, E19: Truth about George Burger
  3. Clifford the Big Red Dog: S1, E26: The Kibble Crook
  4. The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: S1, E9: The Pothole / Chuck’s Perfect Plans

For the big kids:


  1. Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action!
  2. H2O: Just Add Water
  3. Mean Girls 
  4. iCarly: S1, E12: iPromise not to Tell

For teens and adults:


  1. Bloodline
  2. Just Go With It
  3. Liar, Liar
  4. Pretty Little Liars

Disclosure – I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and receive a membership and other benefits in exchange for promotion of the service. In other words I have the best job ever!


  1. MC says

    We have the autism on the other foot (I’m the ASD mother of an ADHD son and 3 girls presumed NT).

    I start telling them all when they’re little that I’m easy to lie to, and they will probably be able to fool me. For a little bit. I also tell them that I’m relentlessly logical and KNOW that I’m easy to lie to, and I WILL figure it out eventually. When I figure it out, I’ll be mad about what they did, mad that they lied, AND mad that they took advantage of knowing that I’m easy to lie to, and then the shit will surely hit the fan. The longer it takes me to catch on, the madder I’ll be. So better to come clean.

    So far, so good. God help me if one day I DON’T catch them.

    I guess learning when to lie (“Those pants look great on you!”) and, the rest of the time NOT TO is part of growing up. It’s just funnier when autism is involved…

    • Tara says

      Ooh yes, that’s a great policy, that the longer they’ve got away with it, the more trouble they’ll be in! Thanks for commenting MC!!

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