I've said it a lot, and I will continue to say it: My son is very, very smart and very, very cunning.
Now, cunning may have a negative connotation to it - someone who sneaks, who cheats, who cuts corners and does barely-legal or just-barely-illegal things to get an advantage. And, don't get me wrong, there may be some of that in what he does.
Take school. Just yesterday, one of his teachers was telling him how much better he was doing in her class, even talking a bit to her. I went and got him and we were walking down the hall and he was sort-of chatting to as he does. He has a thing, where he will answer some kinds of questions if you cue him with the sound of the correct answer. This may, sort of kind of, be a bit of a cheat for him, but he usually answers the question with the correct answer out of a bunch of possibilities with the same start so I'm really not sure.
He was doing that with me on some stuff and that teacher heard him, and said, "Xander! You've been holding out on me! I'm gonna make you talk more to me!"
This may or may not be to his liking. There is a possibility he had been underdoing what he could do, so he wouldn't have to do more. I'm not ruling it out.
BUT - it may also simply be a survival mechanism.
Autistic people have a huge problem with sensory issues - I used this example to a friend a few nights ago. We were out in a parking lot after tae kwon do, and I was talking/bragging about my son and how well he did things with all the assaults on his senses. I pointed to the parking lot lights and the florescent lights back in the classroom, and said "You know we see these lights as solid, but they're really flickering super fast, too fast for us to see. But some autistics can tell that. It would be like almost continually living in a strobe light, every second." Add to that the flickering on a computer screen - which is why when you see a computer screen on a TV during a news broadcast interview you'll see diagonal lines skittering down the screen over and over.
Imagine trying to work on something like that. Or be in a place with continual strobe lighting. The agonizing headache, the eyestrain, the jitteriness.
Now I don't think Xander has that issue, or if he does it's to a much lesser extent. But I think he does have pressure sensitivity, where holding things that dig in - like the ridges on a pencil, or the edges of a zipper or a button - dig in more and hurt, because the times he's tried to hold those things, he's jerked his head away like you or I would if we grabbed a hot pan off the stove. Or with talking - perhaps the teacher's voice, as pleasant as it is to you and me, may have some frequency that hits him hard and odd. Or the room full of chairs and tables make the sound bounce around, so one ear hears the words a beat after or before the other, like a CD playing the same track at different speeds through different speakers. (I seem to recall a recent report that showed nerves impulses did travel oddly in autistic people's brains, but can't recall it for sure.)
If that's the case, why not fake being unable to do something that hurts to do?
Now of course, sadly, I can't know. He can't tell me. And many things that may be troubling him is simply things he has to learn how to do, if for no other reason than to find OTHER ways to accomplish that things. Say, pens instead of pencils.
What I call cunning may be survival, or even intelligence, a necessity to getting through a day. The challenge is figuring out which box he's in - won't because he can't; won't because it hurts; won't because he doesn't want to. Given he has already showed some flashes of cunning - taking out papers he thought would get him in trouble, like I talked about earlier - it's even more difficult, since I know he's smart enough, but is he capable enough, to do certain things?
Smart AND cunning. (Like he needed any more advantages!)