July 2, 2016


"They are acting like spoiled, entitled brats," my former husband emailed. Yes, by normal standards, our children certainly are. Hart almost sabotaged his new job when he pretended he couldn't hear his supervisor talking during a fire drill. Jeff has recently lost a number of jobs because he simply can't or won't follow a schedule.

I survived yet another of Jeff's pillaging raids on my house. The scam is like this: Jeff and I make plans, such as a dinner date. A few hours before I am to pick him up, Jeff calls to say that he prefers to come to my house, which he does. Then he disappears in the house, opening every cupboard and drawer and filling up bags, like Santa Claus in reverse. After I tell him that I am ready to go or that it is impolite to ransack a house that isn't yours, he gets mad and leaves abruptly with his booty.

It is unpleasant behavior, to be sure. The essence of autism is that an autistic person doesn't have "theory of mind," which is why I have said, "I can see that you don't want to spend time with me. You want to take stuff from my house. That is rude and hurts my feelings." To no avail.

This is the delicate dance. How much accommodation can we make for disabled people? It isn't a catch-all excuse for bad behavior. After two decades, I am still confounded by the task of extracting appropriate pro-social behavior. Now there are bosses, supervisors and housemates in the mix. Hart and Jeff are adults now. My influence is limited. In truth, it always was.

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