Questions and Answers
Question # 22
Why do children with NLD sometimes say rude and disrespectful things?
Individuals with NLD often make statements that are blunt, rude, or disrespectful. They may, for example, comment negatively about a person's appearance, weight, or clothing. They may express to family members or friends their dislike of a present given to them. They may interrupt someone trying to facilitate a meeting, or redirect a conversation to a topic of interest to them. Their behaviour can be seen as "annoying" or as "not going with the flow."
It is important to understand that this "rude" behaviour is motivated neither by a wish to offend or hurt others, nor to be disrespectful to adults or authorities. Rather, it reflects their difficulties in processing social information. There are two types of social skill deficits that appear frequently in persons with NLD.
First, individuals with NLD struggle with perspective- taking (or "decentering"). They do not, for example, automatically empathize with others or understand that other people may think and feel different things. They often cannot understand what others might feel when they deliver blunt, negative comments. For persons with NLD, their statements reflect "reality" or the "truth." and so bear stating. They cannot grasp the notion that one should not say everything that one is thinking, or that one may tell "white lies" in order to protect the feelings of the people in one's life.
Negative feedback from others may upset persons with NLD, but they do not connect such feedback with the statements that they have made. Also, they do not see why a person should be offended by their remarks.
Second, NLD can also undermine knowledge of social conventions. Well- functioning people learn how to act appropriately in certain situations, such as a classroom, a playground, a religious service, or a library. They also learn how to act toward those in certain key roles, such as a teacher, a boss, parents, or friends. Individuals with NLD often do not understand these conventions, and so do not tailor their behaviour to the situation or to the person with whom they are speaking. This can appear to be rude or disrespectful, even though individuals with NLD have no such intentions. They are just acting the way they always do, without adjusting to the situation at hand. When individuals with NLD act this way, it can be difficult for the people around them not to be offended and become angry.
Bottom line: It is important to understand the social deficits underlying specific behaviours and to teach the skills that will allow the individual with NLD to avoid alienating people in this manner.