“Being Polite Is Appropriate In Any Situation”

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.

  1. Don’t ask another person about the cost of their possessions.
  2. Don’t talk about the three major turn off topics (sex, politics and religion)
  3. Don’t use swear words in public.
  4. Don’t use swear words on social networking websites. (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter)
  5. Don’t talk about people behind their back.
  6. Don’t laugh about people’s age, appearance, weight, sexual orientation, etc.
  7. Don’t call adults you don’t know well by their first name. (Use “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Ms.” instead)
  8. Don’t burp, belch or pass gas any time you are around other people. (remember to apologize appropriately if it slips out)
  9. Don’t make comments about another person’s bodily functions.
  10. 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.


“Honesty is Different than Diplomacy”

One characteristic that most individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorders show is honesty. They make honest responses to questions, even when they are not being asked. This is rule number four in the book “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships” by Dr. Temple Grandin and Shaun Barron. People often say “honesty is the best policy”. There are times when telling the truth can hurt someones feelings or cause your child to laughed at. Rule number one in the book is “Rules are Not Absolute, They Are Situation and People Based”. Telling the truth is important, but the truth can sometimes hurt other peoples feelings. The key to telling the truth is doing it appropriately, and to do that you need to do it respectfully. From the website dictionary.com, a definition of the word “diplomacy” is “tact and skill in dealing with people”.

The word “tact” simply means “acute sensitivity to what is proper and appropriate in dealing with others, including the ability to speak or act without offending”. In the book, Shaun mentioned how being honest in a social situation is very difficult. He mentioned how being honest can sometimes hurt other peoples feelings. He mentioned how he hurt one of his friends feelings when he received a gift he didn’t like. The gift turned out to be a board game that he already owned at the time. When he first saw the gift, he simply said “I already have this” and flung the gift aside. His parents gave him a lecture about why this behavior was inappropriate. In his mind, he was just trying to be honest because he already owned the game his friend gave him, and that he was disappointed that he didn’t get a gift he wanted. Because of his Autistic way of thinking, it prevented him from understanding that his behavior was inappropriate. It prevented him from understanding that his “sheer unchecked honesty” hurt his friends feelings.

I can relate to Temple when she talked about how she can’t lie on the spur of the moment, she has to plan it carefully beforehand. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high functioning form of Autism. An Autistic child’s ability to lie depends on their functioning level. A child with the low functioning disorder can tend to get very overwhelmed and nervous. If you remember my grouchy math teacher from my Freshman year in high school, she would give us very large amounts of homework every single night. We were working on multi step fractions, which to this day I cannot understand and bore the hell out of me. I remember one day she gave us a very large worksheet for homework, it had about fifty multi step problems and she wanted done by the next school day. I had a very bad bullying incident that day, and I was in no mood to work on a fifty problem worksheet with multi step fractions. When I got home from school that day, I wanted to do nothing but sleep because I was so overwhelmed because of the bullying incident. My mother discovered how overwhelmed I was about the situation, but she didn’t know about the very large math homework sheet. I decided that I would tell the teacher that I didn’t have enough time to do the assignment. The next day, the teacher asked us for our homework assignment, and I put it on her desk. She looked at the paper and noticed that it wasn’t done, and I simply said that I didn’t have time to do the assignment. Because of my tone of voice, she didn’t believe me excuse. In her mind she was probably thinking that I wanted to be lazy and not do the assignment. It was true that I didn’t want to do the assignment, but it was not true that I was lazy. I had a very rough day and I was not in the mood to do a fifty problem worksheet. Math is something that has always frustrated me, and probably always will.

One of the problems I have with being honest is not knowing what to say at the right time. Let’s go back to my old therapist Mike, who would always try to push me to the limit. When he would ask me a question, I wouldn’t answer it right away because I was trying to process what to say. If I didn’t answer the question right away, he would overwhelm me even more by asking another question. After I finally had enough with the questions, I would ignore him by not looking at him and paying attention to him. When I would ignore him, he would irritatingly ask me “what are you thinking about”? I would respond with an “I don’t know” because I simply didn’t want him to know anything about me. It took him and my parents an entire year to finally realize that his therapy was not the right thing for me. It also took them that long to realize that I didn’t want him to get to know me because of how much he overwhelmed me. I seemed to think that he was trying to bully me instead of help me. I think that his therapy would work better for kids with ADHD and behavior problems. His therapy style was that he wanted to shove social skills down my throat. To me, the more you push somebody, the more they will resist.

When I was working with Mike, I didn’t want to be honest because I was afraid he would laugh at me or he would get angry at me. Most kids with Asperger’s are too honest when they are around people they might consider “friends” when they really aren’t. They become too trusting and give them information they shouldn’t give them, which can result in teasing, bullying and social isolation. They don’t understand boundary issues and diplomacy. This is also an important skill to learn in the work world. Lets pretend you are working for a local carpentry shop, and you’re building a house that is almost complete. Your boss has to leave for the day and he leaves you in charge of things for the day. Before he leaves he explains the tasks that he wants completed before the end of the day. Your coworker shows you the wood pieces he cut for the house and you discover that his measurements are slightly off. There are three possible things you could do, you could tell him off by calling him stupid and rudely tell him to go back and do it again, or you could politely tell him which measurements are incorrect and help him get it done correctly. If you go with the first option, you could end up being fired, which could ruin your chances of getting a job elsewhere.

If you remember my blog titled “Social Isolation Hurts” I talked about the kid at Lenape that told me off when we were working on the windmill, he was purposely trying to make me feel bad. He knows that his behavior is very inappropriate and uncalled for. I simply refused to work with him, nobody on this planet deserves to be talked to like that. I have never been around somebody that has talked to me so rudely before. I don’t think that his kid is ever going to change, he will always talk to people he doesn’t like that he doesn’t like rudely and inappropriately. It’s a shame that there are people in this world who act like that, but I guess that is just the way it is.

Before I go, I have one more thought. I try to be as honest and polite as I can when I am around people, but when they are disrespectful towards me they will be disrespected back. They will get the truth that they don’t want to hear and I won’t say it in a nice way. I don’t think you deserve respect when you don’t give it to other people. People who can’t handle the truth will be in for a wake up call sometime in their life. The fact is that if you want respect from me, you have to earn it. It’s as simple as that. I am not going to change anything about myself, and if you can’t handle me for who I am then stay away from me. I think the so called “normal” people are the ones with problems, especially the ones who sit there and make fun of people with differences. If you don’t want to be around me, that is your problem, not mine.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this, and I will be back to write soon!