The Donkey Rule

If you have the dedication, you can reframe any negative belief you have about yourself. It just takes perseverance.


If five people you trust say it is a “donkey” and you think it is a “horse,” use logic and take the opinion of those five people to heart. The chances are that your five mentors together are probably right and that you need to learn to accept what they say as factual and true.


These opinions are based on the perceptions and observations of caring people who know and understand you well enough to matter. Consider (quite bluntly, if you must) that by not taking this advice to heart, you become the jacka**! This simple social rule for decision-making is referred to by CIP as “The Donkey Rule."


“The Donkey Rule” is one of the first things we teach students at all CIP Centers. This simple rule helps students make good decisions as they start to separate from their families and is part of the self-actualization process. Showing students (by examples such as Mark’s) that they need to ask for input and advice from several trusted people when making decisions helps them build their own sense of social judgment.


I know that young adults on the autism spectrum are often socially disconnected and are overly sensitive to the point that they are consumed with their own feelings and their own version of events. At this same time, they are often oblivious to the effects of their own behavior and ignore how other people think and feel. This creates a skewed vision of the world and impairs their ability to make sound decisions. This is why learning to use “The Donkey Rule” is so important.  


I cannot stress the point often enough; your student needs to be working with trained professionals, honest social mentors, compassionate therapists, and competent academic advisors whom they trust. For “The Donkey Rule” to be effective, your student will need to rely on those whose opinions and perceptions can be trusted.


“The Donkey Rule” will help your young adult make good decisions as they learn to separate from you in a healthy manner. Once this network of trusted individuals is established, they will poll four or five people that they respect and know that the advice given will provide guidance in the right direction.


At times, your student may want to use you or a sibling for this poll, depending on the type of decision they are making. This is completely appropriate. The poll will indicate what other people they respect think and would do if they were making the decisions or choices your young adult is trying to make.


In my case, I came to an understanding with myself in order to trust “The Donkey Rule” process. If several people I really respected were telling me not to do something I wanted to do, or telling me to do something else instead, I learned that I should listen to them. Over time, and with a fair amount of resistance, I realized that the outcome would be much better for me, even if I still disagreed.


About the Author: Dr. Michael McManmon, Founder

Dr. Michael McManmon is a licensed psychologist, author, and the founder of the College Internship Program (CIP), a comprehensive postsecondary transition program for young adults with Autism and Learning Differences. He has over 40 years of experience with students with learning differences and was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in his 50's.