Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of the Autistic Adult. By Judy Endow, MSW, Forward by Brenda Smith Myles

In the past few years I have had two encounters with the police while driving my car. The first time I pulled into a school parking lot, answered an email on my Blackberry, gathered my stuff together and let out a little scream, as I didn’t expect to see a police officer standing at my car door!

“Good afternoon officer. How might I help you?” I inquired, knowing that it is very important to always be polite to a police officer.

“Do you know why I am stopping you?”

“No, I do not,” I replied honestly.

“Do you know the speed limit on this road in front of the school?”

“Yes I do,” again, my honest reply.

“And what might that speed limit be?” questioned the officer.

“It is 25 mph,” I responded confidently.

“I clocked you at 33 mph. Is there a good reason you were speeding?” the officer asked.

I was getting increasingly nervous, but knew I needed to tell the truth. I said, “No, I do not have a good reason for speeding.”

“Are you coming to pick up a sick child?” asked the officer.

“No, my children do not go to this school.” I did not know why the officer was asking me this question as it didn’t seem to have anything to do with speeding.

“Perhaps you are in a hurry returning from your lunch break,” the officer offered. It seemed this officer was trying to be friendly with me, which was a bit weird to my way of thinking.

Being as polite as possible in light of my increasing nervousness I responded, “No, I am not late. In fact, I am early. That is why I was answering an email and didn’t notice you standing at the door.”

Acting a bit annoyed with me the officer asked for my driver’s license. While I was fishing it out of my purse he asked one more time, “Do you have any good reason for speeding?”

I knew exactly how this officer felt because I too was becoming a bit annoyed. Again, I tried to give my explanation in the very politest voice I could muster. “Officer, I have no good reason for speeding.  I am not coming to pick up a sick child. I am not coming back from lunch. I am a consultant to this school district. I come here every month. I always arrive early. I am aware of the speed limit. I have no good reason at all for speeding, but do in fact have a bad reason for speeding. I simply wasn’t paying close enough attention. I know that is bad of me as a driver and I totally deserve a speeding ticket because I disobeyed the law. I am very sorry. I will pay closer attention from now on.”

The officer took my license and after a few minutes returned telling me I had a clean driving record and he saw no reason to issue a ticket. He admonished me to pay closer attention in the future especially when driving near schools.

I said, “Are you sure? I did break the law. I will gladly pay a fine.”

Ignoring me the officer told me to have a nice day and to drive carefully. I was very puzzled over his behavior, even though I was glad that I didn’t get a speeding ticket. That night I asked a friend who explained to me that the officer likely didn’t want to issue me a ticket if I could tell him a reasonable explanation for my speed. She said given my situation, even though many people would have the same explanation, they would never say so to the police officer. Seems that most people make up a story – they actually lie about speeding and the police officers are used to it.

I know my autism gifts me with literal thinking and a kind of honesty most others in the world do not have. I know this doesn’t always work out well for me, but I do not understand why people often consider this trait a deficit in regards to me as an autistic person. I sincerely believe it is a bad policy to lie, especially to a police officer. In this instance abiding by the saying, Honesty is the best policy, worked well for me. End result: No speeding ticket.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Image description black and white photograph of woman with long brown hair and glasses smiling.JUDY ENDOW, MSW