An unseen guest

Hands up those of you reading this who have an additional extra as a family member.. .a Mr Nobody? Mr Nobody walks mud all over the floor, eats the last piece of cake, wears my make-up, breaks crockery, squirts toothpaste around the bathroom - most problems in this house are laid squarely at the feet of Mr Nobody!

I have heard all too often that children with autism are not capable of lying. Joe's blurring of fact and fiction throws a slightly different angle on that idea, however all four of the boys are quite capable of lying about whether or not they have done something wrong. The difference between them and the girls is that the boys cannot work out how their lies will be received. Matthew often refuses to admit that he is the one who took the last bar of chocolate, even when he has been the only one in the house. I try to explain to him that unless a burglar broke in and stole only one bar ofchocolate, then logic tells us all that it must be him. He still doesn't get it! Joe will deny that he has pinched a yoghurt yet the carton is still in his hand and he has it all down his clothes. Luke will sit on the computer all day and then when I moan that a new programme has been downloaded, he will argue till he is blue in the face and deny that he was the culprit. The theory of mind is lacking in the boys. They cannot put themselves in my shoes and work out what I am likely to be thinking.

For those of you with a Mr Nobody hiding somewhere in your house, I would love to impart a few tips on mind reading so that you could work out exactly who is the culprit when mishaps occur. However.. .if any of you have any such tips then please write a book of your own and let me in on your secret! We often know when our children are not telling the truth and the boys' lack of theory of mind makes it easier to know when they are lying. In an ideal world however, honesty would prevail, and our job as parents is to teach our children that there is no shame in admitting that they are wrong or have done something wrong. When a child realizes that there is no need for shame then the need for lying should be eliminated. (I did say in an ideal world!)

Whilst I can guarantee that poor Mr Nobody is going to shoulder the blame for most mishaps in our house and the ever familiar cry of"It wasn't me" will rebound from every wall I, on the other hand, am left with the impossible task of working out exactly who the perpetrator of such incidents was. With two boys who leave a trail of destruction behind them, they are invariably blamed for most breakages and spillages in the house. Whilst I am pretty sure that the girls are not going to be squirting shaving foam and toothpaste everywhere, it is inevitable that although I try to make sure of the facts, someone will be wrongly accused and made to clean up someone else's mess occasionally. Again, I have no easy answers to such scenarios other than try to ensure that as far as is humanly possible, you are sure of your facts before issuing punishments. If you are getting one of the older children to clean up the mess of a younger or less able child then make sure you give lashings of reward and explanations as to why they are not doing so for themselves. One of the most important things to remember is to keep talking (my kids think I do far too much ofthis) and try not to grudgingly clean up all the spillages and breakages yourself (I think I do far too much of this!) otherwise not only does resentment build up inside you like a volcano ready to erupt, but the children learn that regardless of their actions, everything will be sorted for them.

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