Skip to main content

Article: Taking things Literally; An Issue that Matters

So, you've been looking through the lists of aspie traits and you've found one called "taking things literally". You read about it and it says, 

'The person may not understand jokes, sarcasm or figures of speech, such as, "It's raining cats and dogs."'

They might look outside for falling animals....

Awwww.... How cute.

So, you ignore it and move on to the  next symptom.

My latest post over at Special-ism looks at an example of what taking things literally really means and why it's important to take this issue seriously;

Hop over and read it;

Taking Things Literally; An Issue that Matters
by Gavin Bollard


Angel the Alien said…
::Gets up and hops across the room to read it:: (LOL!)
Anonymous said…
That is a better example of literalism. But I think it is misleading of textbooks to say that Aspies take things literally in that naive way any way. I understand most figures of speech. But I can often have a rather vivid mental picture of the (frankly ridiculous) image depicted in the figure of speech and so be distracted by thinking about the literally ridiculous terminology while other people (I guess) are attending to the figurative meaning. I cannot help noticing the literal meaning, even though I am aware of the ficurative meaning - so I am slower at processing what is being said. I also tend to smile during comments that other people take totally seriously.
Anonymous said…
Im not Aspergers, but now that I understand my daughter is, I often wonder why people don't 'say what they mean and mean what they say'more often. its hard work for anyone having to 'read between the lines' of a conversation.
Mama Elf said…
I agree with you on this point, Gavin. The books often make this point cutesy and don't actually inform much.

It is not figures of speech as much as this type of communication, where my son falls flat on his face. He loves stories and reading, so figures of speech have become familiar to him and he asks, if he doesn't understand.
On the other hand when the teacher tells that there is a game where no-one is allowed to speak and he uses hand signs to try to communicate (all made up, not sign language), he gets in trouble. For him though, the instruction was not a blanket ban on communication, but on speech. So it is these unpredictable slight inaccuracies in communication, which NTs can "magically" pick up that he stumbles over.
Anonymous said… is a great comment about taking things too literally.

Cubeangel says

""People who claim Einstein is a reason to not need social skills, and to not care what other people think, need to learn more about how socially savvy Einstein actually was, and more about how much Einstein did care about what other people think and how they were treated:"

"Anon, I would like to make a side comment that has nothing to do with autism whatsoever. A lot of people misconstrue the phrase "not caring what anyone thinks."

"A lot of normal children take this out of context. A lot of teachers and parents say this without thinking of how the child would interpret this. The correct context for this phrase is to resist negative influences and peer pressure to do things that would be detrimental like promiscuous sex and illicit drugs.

"At school, a lot of kids say these things are the popular thing to do and makes them seem cool. The idea behind this phrase was to instill the individuality to resist this negative behavior and influences. It did not mean to give up all standards with reckless abandon and to be rude and disrespectful. It took me a long time to realize what was going on.

"Honestly, I believe children are misconstruing other pieces of advice adults give and then the adults wonder why there is so much disrespect, rudeness and behavior problems.

"The thing is there are come cases in which one must care about what certain people think and in other cases you do not have to care. In fact, you could put this on a sliding scale.

"Employers, teachers, parents, etc are ones you should care way more about what they think then the popular kids who use drugs. The popular kids who use drugs should be way low on one's totem pole."

[and this goes for the unpopular kids who use drugs too!]
Anonymous said…
My husband has ended many friendships over time because he gets offended over a comment that most people would laugh at. He doesn't forgive or forget .

When we were dating I jokingly said to him I don't know what I would do without you but I would like to try. It is amazing we patched things up and later married.

Normally, he will just adopt the attitude the person in question is dead to him. He seems to have no remorse in cutting the person out of his life for ever more.
Kathy Haras said…
Raining cats and dogs is easy -- it only means one thing.

Do you want to have a coffee? means a myriad of things. And only occassionally does it mean do you want to have a coffee.

Taking things literally is neither cute nor a problem just for kids.

Popular posts from this blog

Why do Aspies Suddenly Back Off in Relationships (Part 2)

In part one, we looked at the role that Change Resistance plays in causing aspies to suddenly go "cold" in otherwise good relationships. This time, I want to look at self esteem and depression; Self Esteem The aspie relationship with themselves is tedious at best. People with Asperger's commonly suffer from low self esteem. As discussed in earlier posts, this low self esteem often results from years of emotional turmoil resulting from their poor social skills. Aspies are often their own worst enemy. They can over analyze situations and responses in an effort to capture lost nonverbal communication. This often causes them to invent problems and to imagine replies. Everything made up by aspies will tend to be tainted with their own self image. This is one of reasons that people with Asperger's will sometimes decide that they are not good enough for their partner and that they must let them go. Sometimes, the aspie will develop a notion of chivalry or self-sacri

Aspie Myths - "He Won't Miss Me"

I apologise for the excessive "male-orientated" viewpoint in this post. I tried to keep it neutral but somehow, it just works better when explained from a male viewpoint. Here's a phrase that I've seen repeated throughout the comments on this blog on several occasions; "I know that he won't miss me when I'm gone because he's aspie" Today, we're going to (try to) bust that myth; Individuals I'll start off with a reminder that everyone is an individual. If all aspies were completely alike and predictible, they'd be a stereotype but they're not. Each is shaped by their background, their upbringing, their beliefs and their local customs. An aspie who grew up with loud abusive parents has a reasonable chance of becoming loud and abusive themselves because in some cases, that's all they know. That's how they think adults are supposed to behave. In other cases, aspies who grew up in those circumstances do a complete a

Aspies and Sexuality

A word of warning: This post may cover adult topics - though really nothing "juicy" so it's probably safe. You may want to read it carefully before allowing minors to look at it.   The Myths   In the last week, prompted by some "off the wall" questions, I have been reading a lot of discussions about autistic people (including "aspies") and sexuality. I am amazed at the opinions of otherwise respectable people in the medical profession. I have found a whole bunch of statements including; All autistic people are gay Most autistic people are asexual (derive no pleasure from sex). Autistic people are sex maniacs Preferences Reading a lot further afield and having discussions with other aspies makes it clear to me that aspies come in all sizes shapes and forms. Their preferences vary just as much as neurotypicals. On Page 246 of "Asperger's Syndrome: Intervening in Schools, Clinics, and Communities" By Linda J. Baker, Lawrence A., they