How can I help my Aspergers son to function better out in public?
We expect the people around us to look and act a certain way. Acting civilized is desired of all ages, young and old. Sometimes this is just too much to expect. People are individuals with their own agendas. What seems civilized to one family may be over the top in another household. What seems barely acceptable in one place is normal behavior in another.
Nevertheless, we all want to be accepted and we want our children to be accepted. We teach and train from the earliest point in time to the best of our ability and our expectations, only to be told we aren’t quite reaching the bar in other’s eyes. Then add in Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning autism). How can we succeed?
Make sure that your son recognizes appropriate behavior for public places. The younger you start, the more time you’ll have to cement the skills in his mind. Manners, personal cleanliness, and appropriate conversation are a few that are not only important at home but can mean acceptance in public.
You should make lists that are very straight-forward with simple language. An example of a list subject could be as follows:
This is how I act at a restaurant:
• I sit quietly and stay in my chair
• I speak calmly and place my order
• I eat my food using my manners
Picture charts are similar to lists, but use pictures instead of words. For example, a picture of a restaurant logo could be used as the title. The following pictures could be a car, people walking into a door, people sitting as a table, and so on.
Reading social stories is another good option. Choose a story about a boy going to eat in a restaurant. It is possible to write your own story. Make sure the story includes many examples of proper behavior. Read the story several times before the trip to the restaurant.
Use every possible opportunity to remind your son about his lists, charts, and stories. This will help him become more aware of how he should present himself. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome do not always see the importance of good behavior because of their lack of social skills. The good thing is that they want to do what is right and acceptable and will work hard to follow the rules.
Utilize the Internet to find books and videos that will model proper behavior for him. This video can be used for older kids through adult: “Manners for the Real World: Basic Social Skills” (DVD).
Your son can watch and emulate actual demonstrations of appropriate behavior by using this video. There are many topic areas covered, from table manners to public conversations and everything in between. All topics are discussed during the segment and then reviews are captioned on the screen. He’ll see it, hear it and read it.
As your son grows, you will need to add new rules to his lists. The body is always changing. There will be added personal hygiene issues, as well as new social situations in which he’ll begin to participate. The goal is to show him how to tackle the issues of public behavior himself as he becomes an adult. Because of your diligence over the years, your son will know what he needs to do to function appropriately in public.
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook