• Lisa Tew

Commenting Rule Part Two: Is it Necessary?

I noted in the previous blog entitled “Commenting Rule, Part One: Is it Nice?” that it is often difficult for the young person with high functioning autism or Asperger’s to know what is acceptable to say in different situations with different people. That blog referenced what I am calling the Commenting Rule, “Is it nice and is it necessary?”, and focused on “nice” comments, which are usually appropriate and acceptable. Increasing “nice” comments at appropriate times with appropriate people, along with accompanying positive voice tone and body language, is generally a positive step for the workplace and relationships, and of course for their reputation!

However, sometimes one does need to say things that are not nice because it is necessary to say them. If it is not nice, then it must be necessary in order to say it at work. It is not easy for any young person to know when saying something negative at work is necessary, and it is likely to be one of those things that is made more difficult by autism. Here’s the rule you should share with your child: It is necessary to tell someone in authority if you cannot continue or should not be expected to continue without a change being made (for example if you are feeling intimidated or harassed) or if you know of something dangerous or wrong that is occuring.

Telling the boss that fellow employees are not doing their jobs correctly when the infractions are relatively minor and result in nothing dangerous or unethical, for example, is not necessary and will negatively impact his or her reputation. Disliking certain jobs, or a change in routine, feeling “picked on” or targeted at work, or a friend or co-worker being “mean”, all may be necessary to communicate to someone in authority, but should be discussed with a trusted person first. Try to strike this deal with your child: to agree to immediately share any issues with you (or another trusted person) if their discomfort is home/private life related, or with you and/or their job coach or vocational counselor if it is work related, so he or she can receive guidance on taking the next step, for example speaking to an authority figure at work.

If your child does need to speak to the boss, rehearse with them how to make their point positively and respectfully. Also guide them to:

Speak to the right person. At work it should be someone who is in charge, who has the authority to help or make a change. In your private life at home it should be someone that you trust and who cares for you.

Make sure it is the right time and place. Can the person give you undivided attention (they are not in the middle of doing something else, they are not speaking to someone else?) Do you have a private place to speak to the person or can you speak so that others don’t hear you?

Your child’s reaching out for support, and accepting guidance for this, is a major positive step toward independence and employability!

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