Monday, October 17, 2016

Our son wouldn't stop swearing, so we taught him how to do it right

Our son Malcolm has what is generally referred to as "high-functioning autism," meaning he is verbal, can follow instructions and can consume information at a staggering rate with meticulous accuracy. It also means he has very little ability to grasp social cues or to participate ably in many social situations. He is rarely willfully disobedient and hates getting into trouble.
Except for swearing, where he swore constantly at school, to teachers and classmates.
We tried teaching Malcolm "green-light words" and "red-light words," in the hopes that he would not cuss. But we were fighting a losing battle: To an autistic preteen, it is confusing to hear "those words are wrong" when the words appear to be socially acceptable in many contexts, including the playground and the middle-school bus ride, where the rules of discourse are set by peers, not by adults. And those contexts are precisely where Malcolm struggles the most -- but also desires the most to fit in. Of all the ways to fit in, this one was pretty harmless.
So, after growing weary of constantly monitoring his language, we devised a new plan.