Autism and Rudeness

As one on the autism spectrum for over 50 years, I have gotten into trouble for being “rude” my whole life. Rudeness is a social construct. “Social construct” is defined as “an idea or notion that appears to be natural and obvious to people who accept it but may not represent reality, so it remains largely an invention or artifice of a given society1.” If you are not born with social instincts, as is the case with people on the autism spectrum, what is “obvious” when it comes to rudeness, is not obvious to one with autism.

As one born in the early 1960’s, no one at that time in the US had the remotest clue what anyone on the autism spectrum–except maybe the severely autistic–was actually like. Nobody had a clue what to make of me. Don’t get me wrong, I was raised to be “polite” as in “please,” “thank you” and all that, but that does not mean I had a concept of what a “rude” statement was. I remember when as a child and adolescent, teachers and mothers of my “friends,” would get mad at me for, what to me, was no apparent reason. They assumed I knew what “rude” behavior was and I was behaving badly deliberately. Problem was, I was completely mystified.

As I got older, I started to figure out what “rude” was; but still to this day, I can’t escape from being called “tactless.” Another word for tactless is unsubtle. Yep, autistic people are unsubtle. What you see is what you get and we tell it like it is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Plus, we have enough anxiety without having to walk around on eggshells hoping not to offend people. You say what you mean, while still trying to be nice, and that’s the best you can do.

If I would give one piece of advice to people who do not have autism about the concept of rudeness, it would be to understand that being “rude” is not such a horrible thing and not all rudeness is deliberately rude behavior. Take into account whether the person is just socially clumsy when you decide how to respond to someone you deem as rude. Additionally, remember that not everyone can finesse diplomacy, thoughtfulness, sensitivity etc. and you should think twice before you get all offended about what people say or do—whether they are on the autism spectrum or not.

Source: 1

UPDATED:  January 27, 2018


2 thoughts on “Autism and Rudeness

  1. I have a 23 year old granddaughter with high functioning autism. She is rude only when it’s convenient. She knows the difference because she herself will point out other rude people. She’s nice to others but is rude to me unless she wants me to do something for her. She’s smart and can figure out how to get one over on the system. When she wants to do something she figures out how to do it even if it’s wrong. She has a daughter almost 2. She lives in her own place with her daughter. She has stolen and blamed it on her autism. She uses it as a crutch. I have s hard time accepting her rudeness when she can be rude to me and turn around and be nice to someone else in the same room. I need help understanding. She lies alot also.


    1. Sorry for the late reply. I have a daughter the same age as your granddaughter who is on the autism spectrum also. My daughter understands social norms better than me but respect for family and elders is lacking–and always has been, no matter what I have done to correct it. Part of it is the millennial generation. Part of it is society tolerates a lot of rudeness now that wasn’t tolerated in our youth. You are correct your granddaughter has chosen to use her autism as a crutch. She has also chosen not to behave with integrity (selective rudeness and lying). The autism rudeness I speak of is a lack of tact that does NOT intend to hurt others. It’s the product of a factual, logical mindset. Try looking at what she says as “Is it factual, logical” or is it “manipulative or unkind?” You also have a lot of past behavior to go by as to what she does and does not understand. Do NOT tolerate rudeness to you when you know it is the latter (manipulative or unkind) rather than innocently factual or logical.


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