I saw that this was a search phrase used to find my blog. I believe that the answer to that question is: when you teach them.
I don’t know that anyone really knows right from wrong on their own. It’s just that neurotypical people are just sort of able to pick up right from wrong by watching others. Apsergians are not able to do that.
Neurotypical peple are able to generalize their experiences, too. Aspergians are not able to do that, either. So, unfortunately, unless you directly teach the child with Asperger’s what is right and what is wrong, in every situation, they are not going to know.
Once you do teach an Aspie what is right or wrong in a particular situation, they most likely won’t ever forget. I love this about my Asperger’s child! This point is not necessarily true for neurotypical children, which drives me crazy. My neurotypical child is quite forgetful concerning what I have taught her, often insisting that I never even told her about a situation in question, which I know I just reprimanded her for it not even 72 hours before.
This being said, an Asperger’s child, like all human beings may not choose to act in the way that he or she knows is right. The tricky part about disciplining an Asperger’s child is they may not be motivated to change, because even though they know that a certain action is considered wrong, they don’t really think it is, so see no need to change. For instance, there are so many things that people are supposed to do or not do to be polite. But many of those things involve white lies, which to an Aspie is apalling. So they would rather suffer the consequences than have to to compliment someone’s ugly shoes, or horrid haircut. Because they cannot live with themselves as a liar.
There are times when people with Asperger’s Syndrome know right from wrong better than the neurotypicals. Because Aspies are not burdened with all of the cultural nuances of what is expected in polite society, they simply try to follow the big rules like, don’t lie, don’t cheat, etc. They are then labeled as rule breakers because the NTs don’t like that the Aspies are telling the truth about what is really going on.
Also, I believe that some Aspies get confused and don’t know when they should follow rules and when they should not. For instance, they are taught as children not to lie. But then are told to lie to people all of the time about all sorts of things. For example, we are told to lie and say that we are fine when asked, “How are you.” We are told to lie and say, “It is delicious,’ when we really can’t stand what we are being forced to eat. We are told to lie and say, “What a lovely baby,” when it is the ugliest thing we have seen as yet. And the list goes on. So after awhile, an Aspie could conclude that breaking even the big rules must not have any real consequences, if the reason you are doing it is a good one.
The problem is, the Aspie doesn’t realize that the decision about what is a good reason to break a rule is made by a neurotypical, so an Aspie reason to break a rule is always going to be considered the wrong reason. A neurotypical person may be able to get by with the same crime because they will have a reason that is considered acceptable. Not fair, but true.