Thursday, January 20, 2011

Time to Teach Manners

It is, of course, important to teach all children good manners, but I wonder if this is another concept that is more difficult for kids with autism to grasp. They often have trouble reading social cues and generally seem to be more direct in their language, sometimes embarrassingly so. In my son’s case, in addition to all this, his love of numbers and fixation on time seem to add to his social miscues.

When Kai’s grandfather visited us a few days ago, we were reminded of our son’s deficits when it comes to social etiquette. When Kai greeted Papa at the door, we had to prompt him to say hello. Totally unprompted, however, he asked, “What time are you leaving?”

While my wife and I were mildly mortified, we knew that, despite how the question sounded, Kai really was very happy to see his grandfather. We recognized that he asked because schedules are vitally important to him. He is constantly asking what time we are going somewhere, or how many minutes he has to do something.

We explained to him that it is not polite to ask people what time they are planning to leave as it may make them feel like you do not want them to be here. I don’t know if he understood that. I’m guessing that his need to know schedules means that we will probably have to reinforce this with him for quite awhile. It may also make sense to proactively tell him how long someone is expected to stay so that he doesn’t have to ask them, though I want him to learn to not to ask these types of questions, and not always have to provide a work-around for him.

Before, he used to always ask visitors, “What year were you born?” We explained that some people are sensitive about their age and do not want to tell others when they were born. I don’t think Kai got that one at all. He loves numbers and years and dates; why would anyone not want to tell him the year they were born? He eventually stopped asking that question, though he is probably still perplexed as to why he shouldn’t.

Fortunately, Papa is never taken aback by anything Kai says. I think he actually welcomes his questions as it opens up conversation with his grandson, something that did not happen back when Kai did not speak.

And so, we ended up having a nice visit. Papa played Wii for the first time and Kai “knocked him out” in boxing and beat him in bowling as well. We all laughed and had a great time and Kai even lost track of time for a little while.

However, Kai did not forget that today is Papa’s birthday. And, so, we send out hearty birthday wishes. Happy birthday, Papa!


  1. Happy birthday!
    Papa sounds lovely :)

  2. He is. Thanks, Casdok. I'm sure Papa appreciates it

  3. Haha, I've had the kids I sit for (all of whom have special needs) ask me that before. I know it's just part of who they are, but we're working on NOT asking questions like that in front of people, kinda like you guys are.

    The first time I met one of my campers he came in for an interview, met the head of the camp (a 74 year old man) and promptly exclaimed "Wow! You sure are old! Look at all that grey hair!"

    The parents were mortified but we were just like "yep. he fits right in here." I'm happy to report that two years later he's learned that sort of thing isn't appropriate!

    Oh and my favorite age related story! I had a 10 year old ask me how old I was and when I told him another kid turned to me and said "you don tell your age. You're a lady!"


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