Monday 7 December 2015

Anthony's first experience of guilt

If you have read 'Our terribly truthful child' you will know that Anthony is a seven year old boy with autism who has never told a lie, ever. But, that doesn't mean he has never done anything wrong.  And as of last week, it doesn't mean that he's never felt guilty either. 

One of Anthony's special interests, which is nearing an obsession at the moment, is playing a app game called Marvel Champions. Special interests are very common with autism. As Ambitious About Autism say, 'people with autism tend to be more all-or-nothing than most people: something is either absolutely not interesting or absolutely fascinating.' An obsession is a special interest taking over your life or your ability to function due to an inability to stop thinking about or doing your obsession. 

Marvel Champions is just on this border at the moment and it was this game that led to Anthony's first experience of guilt.  Usually Anthony only plays the game when his father is home. This allows some control for us. Sometimes Anthony's father can't be at home because of work or something else and then Anthony is allowed to play the game with certain restrictions. One of these restrictions is that Anthony is not allowed to spend the game tokens without asking his dad. So, if his dad isn't there then Anthony has to wait. 

Last week this proved to difficult and when asked to come down the stairs for dinner Anthony burst into tears. It took me a while to work out that Anthony wasn't crying because he'd accidentally spent his game tokens. He was upset because he was having difficulty reconciling the fact that he had chosen to spend the game tokens despite knowing he shouldn't. 

My son cried for nearly an hour. Then had his swimming lesson and then started crying again. At one point I thought we weren't going to get him to stop crying in order to get into the pool. His whole concern was about how sad and disappointed his dad was going to be. 

It's interesting that Anthony would get so upset by this. He barely blinks when he does some other things that 'disappoint' us like for example hurting his sister, or not trying to do homework. I think it's the first time he's really felt guilty about something. 

I'd tried several strategies and then finally told Anthony a story from when I was a little girl and did something similar and how I felt about the fact that it had upset my parents. Anthony was mesmerised. It culminated in a phone call to my own father to get him to re-tell the story again and explain how my own father had  felt about my 'crime'. 

In many ways I think this shows Anthony maturing. He has always struggled with interpreting his own and others feelings. My heart when out to him. Feeling guilty is awful, but in some way I'm pleased that he's been able to achieve this milestone and that I was allowed to work through it with him. 

Our Blog - Our terribly truthful child
Our Blog - Autism and the misunderstandings of empathy

External links
Ambitious About Autism - Obsessions and Special Interests


  1. Feeling guilty is a horrible feeling but it's part of those range of feelings that most of us just take for granted - and as you say, it indicates a certain level of emotional maturity which makes it quite a milestone for Anthony. Sounds like you handled it really well and glad to hear that the story helped Anthony too.

  2. It feels awful doesn't it! Awful enough for me to remember a time when I felt it from my childhood! Thanks for stopping by - hope you are good xxx

  3. As much as this must have been horrible for you all I can see the positives in this. We are having a terrible time with discipline at the moment and I'm hoping this type of understanding might start to help with that process. I'm glad you were finally able to stop those tears.

    Thanks for linking up with Small Steps Amazing Achievements :0)


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