Can you remember the last time you had to be around a person who has the worst manners you have ever seen? You and your family are sitting at a restaurant and one of the members of your party burps out loud, where everybody can hear them. Everybody turns around and looks, but the parents do absolutely nothing about it. After it happens, everybody continues with their meals. A few minutes pass, then the child acts up again. This time, he starts asking people inappropriate questions, the questions dealt with the three major “turn off” topics, which are sex, politics and religion. The kid is so loud that people from across the room can hear every word he is saying. Their parents pay absolutely no attention to the child, and everybody else in the restaurant gets irritated. The other customers finally had enough and they complain to the waitress. Because of the kids inappropriate behavior, they ask the party to leave without their money back.
I actually did witness something like this happen, but this time it was not a kid and the parents not paying attention to them, it was a group of college kids and their girlfriends. My family decided to go out to eat at an Applebees, and we did not enjoy our meal because of the behavior coming from these kids. I am surprised that their girlfriends didn’t even walk out on them, I most certainly would not want to be around someone who acted like that. They obviously didn’t understand this unwritten social rule. Manners is a must have skill if you want to have social interaction with people.This is rule # 5 in Temple Grandin and Shaun Barron’s “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships”.
Temple mentioned something that I thought was pretty interesting and true, the quote from the book states “As a whole, people in our society have become ruder and cruder than ever before. People behave in social settings today in ways that would have been considered really impolite when I was growing up in the 60’s and even in the 70’s and 80’s, and it’s tolerated. Over the past twenty years or so, having good manners and being polite in social interaction — the whole idea of there being a “right” and a “wrong” way to act in social settings– has become less and less important. Fewer parents take the time to instill manners and teach proper social etiquette to their children. It’s having a ripple effect. Young parents today aren’t even conscious of some Miss Manners’ rules, which used to govern society when I was growing up”.
Asperger’s kids are not alone, there are neurotypical adults who show behavior that demonstrate a lack of social skills. A perfect example is a therapist I had to deal with when I was in about first or second grade. There were two times when she wouldn’t show up for our sessions, and she never called us and informed us she was running late. We were supposed to meet two times a week, and there was no sign of her both sessions. The next week she arrived thirty minutes late and said there was “traffic on Route 28”. I have heard from many people who traffic congestion and car troubles are both not an excuse to be late in the work world. I was scheduled to be her first client of the day, and she only lived in Kittanning, which is only about 20 minutes from Sarver. I also noticed that she would make that excuse more often as the weeks went on. That wasn’t the only issue we had with her, there was a major personality clash between her, my mother and I. Instead of teaching me social skills, she talked to me in a very threatening tone. She was only focused on reprimand me for my behaviors instead of teaching me social skills. Her attitude pretty much sounded like “I will fix that f***up if he continues acting like this. I am the boss and he does everything I say.” I told my parents I was sick of her, and we finally decided to discharge services with her. When a child demonstrates inappropriate behavior, their parents and therapists need to explain to them why the behavior was wrong and a more appropriate way of handling whatever the situation was. Parents, teachers and therapists need to also help them understand why their behavior will cause people to not want to be around them. They need to keep practicing until they get it. Repetition is a must in social skills training because later in life they may make a mistake that will help them realize why it was inappropriate. The child may not like every activity their therapist or teacher does with them, but they should realize that he or she may not function well in the work world if they continue to act the way they do. You should also teach the child that teaching them social skills is not a punishment, you are doing it to help them. Just verbally reprimanding them and saying “don’t do that again” won’t change their behavior, they will just keep doing it even more.
Remember what the word “tact” meant? The rule “Honesty Is Different From Diplomacy” goes with this rule as well. Sometimes kids with Asperger’s Syndrome are too honest and the things they say offend people. Here are some basic conversation don’ts that I have learned along the way, Temple did not mention some of these in the book.
- Don’t ask another person about the cost of their possessions.
- Don’t talk about the three major turn off topics (sex, politics and religion)
- Don’t use swear words in public.
- Don’t use swear words on social networking websites. (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter)
- Don’t talk about people behind their back.
- Don’t laugh about people’s age, appearance, weight, sexual orientation, etc.
- Don’t call adults you don’t know well by their first name. (Use “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Ms.” instead)
- Don’t burp, belch or pass gas any time you are around other people. (remember to apologize appropriately if it slips out)
- Don’t make comments about another person’s bodily functions.
- Don’t hug a person unless you are in a romantic relationship, or they are a close family member or friend.
As I have said before, teaching a child manners in social interaction is not a punishment, it is intended to help them function in life. Learning these manners will help them succeed in the social and work world. I hope you found this very interesting and informative, and I hope you will use this as a guide in the future.