Disregard for Authority – ASD Symptom

Appearing to having a disregard for people in authority is a major clue that someone is on the autistic spectrum. If you think that must include all individuals who regularly misbehave, then yes, those are the numbers we are talking about, that potentially have ASD.

This symptom also inlcudes resenting being told what to do. It is related to being pragmatic. If the person affected is unable to see the point in doing something, it won’t matter how high up on the food chain you are; they won’t want to do it.

It is nearly always categorized as being disrespectful of others. But that’s simply not the case; people on the Autistic Spectrum can and do respect people immensely. But there has to be a good reason for that respect, and not just because you say so!

Autistic Spectrum kids are actually very fair. They have a strong sense of justice, and are very sensitive to injustice. So if you are a parent or teacher for example, and you want them to do something, all you have to do is explain to them why you want them to do it. This might sound over-simplified, but the number of times I have been asked to do something without an explanation, is huge. Not only do you often not get an explanation, but you are expected to read people’s minds as well. This happens a lot in the workplace as well as school.

Let’s use new website software as an example in a classroom. If a teacher says “Click here”, then “select Slick019 here”, and so on, unless it is apparent why they have to do that, the child will not be able to remember for next time, and so will end up back at the beginning in the next lesson. So they don’t see the point of following the steps. But if the teacher explains “Click here to get the Template box up, that allows you to choose the style of your website”, then “Now select the template you want to work with; let’s choose Slick019 for now”, the child will be less likely to forget what they have been shown, and they will see the value in doing each step. This will make them want to do it for themselves, rather than watch someone else do it, or worse; be told to do each step without understanding why.

You can’t fob them off with a half-hearted explanation such as; “Because I want you to!”

It has to be a thorough explanation, that gives them information they did not know prior to you telling them.

And you can’t lie. High functioning autistic kids and adults are human lie-detectors.  Despite many having limited social skills, they can spot a liar nine times out of ten. Not only will they refuse to do what you asked them, but they will refuse to trust you again. So don’t insult them by lying.

With the autistic child, they have to be shown respect before they can give it. But once they are shown it, they will not only be respectful, but very loyal – providing you prove not to ultimately have feet of clay.

Giving a full explanation also sometimes works for when you want the child to stop doing something too. And getting into the habit of giving full explanations makes you better at giving instruction over time. It makes you a better teacher.

But some more stubborn kids will hate being told what to do, no matter what. This is related to ego and pride. They are happy to do anything, just as long as it was their idea to begin with. The trick is to let them believe it was their idea.

So you have to use clever wording in a roundabout way to make them think that. This is not the same as lying. It is Copywriting. Advertisers do it to us all every day –  every 10 minutes if you watch a lot of TV!

But the result will be that they won’t see the situation as being told what to do. So their pride will remain intact. In fact if you can get them to think it was their idea, without lying, it might be so effective that they end up becomeing obsessed with it!

In the case of the website software, you have to tell them about the ultimate benefits of using the software (NOT the features, unless they ask about them). You glorify the end result and pile on the benefits so it sounds like the most amazing thing to have, and actually makes them feel left out if they don’t have it. Then you just wait for them to think about it, and if you made it sound awesome, they will tell you they want to use it.

Then you can use the full explanation method, or you might not need to. In some cases, they will run ahead and teach themselves the software, they’ll be so eager to get started!

So a child (or adult) having a Disregard for Authority is often simply due to poor communication. Sadly, because people on the autistic spectrum often get into trouble for being defiant or disruptive, the people around them who are in authority grow to disrespect them, and in turn they are also disrespected by the person with ASD.

As the autistic person is likely to be less emotionally intelligent, it is they that need to be shown respect first in order to correct the imbalance, but it will be worth the sacrifice and gritted teeth in the end!


4 comments on Disregard for Authority – ASD Symptom

  1. As the mother of an 18 year old daughter on the autism spectrum who has lost one volunteer job and is in jeopardy of losing another for being rude, impatient, argumentative, irritable, and bossy, I long for more articles presenting ways to help her work well with others. this article about disregard for authority describes her fairly well. Yet, the woman who is in charge of this particular volunteer opportunity is amazingly patient, and carefully describes all instructions as recommended in the article as much as she can, and my daughter still behaves in ways that may burn her bridges and lose her this chance to do something she desperately wants to do. Help!

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment.

      You say the woman in charge of the volunteer job is very patient. And she could be the nicest person in the world, but if your daughter doesn’t want to be there, or doesn’t like the tasks she is asked to do, she will feel underlying resentment and there will be constant friction.

      Does your daughter like this job? I know you say she desperately wants to do this, but is she actually doing the tasks she wants to do, or just getting a foot in the door, to work her way up?

      One way to help her would be to have a progress folder. I have one for every substantial task I need to do, in order to remind me to stay focused. Otherwise I forget that all the mundane tasks are actually leading somewhere important!

      Get her to write her ultimate goals, and list all the things she needs to do in order to reach them. If some tasks are more complicated, and need to have lists within lists, do that too. Make a mindmap using a free tool, such as FreeMind software, and have a shortcut to it on her desktop. Or just print out Word documents and put them in a physical folder. But review it every day if possible. It is the only way she will stay on track.

      And go through the process with her, so she feels important and a sense of accomplishment. One thing ASD and insecure kids need is positive attention. So it is also important to list all the things she has done WELL so far. Try to encourage her and compliment her when she behaves well. Also tell her the good things that are likely to happen as a result of her good behavior.

      Also, are her talents being utilized? If there is a particular job she is good at, then she will enjoy it and do it well. It is much easier to give people jobs they excel at, than try to mold them into something they are not.

      Then look at the possibilities that are likely if she has a derailment! She will lose the job and have to start again from square one. Then all the things she listed as her achievements seem like an even bigger loss. So she’ll likely try harder to avoid losing all that hard work.

      But if she only hears reprimands and negative feedback, no matter how true they are, she will fight even harder. If the boss is encouraging too and gives her positive feedback every time she behaves, that will also be a big help.

      I do feel for you both though. It is not easy. I have been on both sides of the battle. Hope this is helpful. If you are able to tell me what type of work it is, I might be able to offer more tips.

      Good luck!

  2. I gotta admit, a lot of this stuff I could relate (I have autism and disregard for authority is probably one of my more sensitive subjects)

    example: being told to do something that was more than reasonable (like getting a drink of water because I am parched)

    recently: I’ve found that finding “love” (romantic relationships) with this condition and emotional unawareness is like: sticking my hand into a blender that is set to: puree

    I find myself very frustrated one week, very depressed the next, very “disconnected” the week after that and my current partner is often unavailable for even just “hanging out”

    I’m not asking for relationship advice, but I don’t fully understand what is wrong when I feel so intensely one way or the other or forbid the idea of her ACTUALLY being there! (I only get to hang out maybe once a week if lucky)

    I acknowledge: maybe I’m not truly in a relationship and just misconstrue the situation (if that was the case then I wish the message would come through, so I can move on)

  3. Certainly an area of major struggle for me!!!!…. Detest the fact ob being controlled by third-parties(be it mom, work authorities or anyone else working closely with me) and not acting freely in a free society like the one i live in!!!!!!…. Heavily dislike it when someone tells me what to do or not do, come up with a concern/complaint et al…. For instance, last year each time i stepped in into the kitchen window and realized our old neighbour was outside and made a comment to my mom, Hated when my mother would sway me away from there and tell me things such as “she won’t like it you standing or walking up there while she is outside” (she did not want me to have any sort of association with this neighbour by all accounts) as ever she is gone, no longer the case…. Dislike it when a supervisor/boss comes and bring to your attention any sort of mistake you made or even worst when they no longer want you in a company, stick around you, and constantly checking you leave the job right away as opposed to your own pace….

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