Teach Your Autistic Children Well


Buckle up, a rant is coming.

Are we responsible for teaching basic manners to our kids?


Here’s the deal, even though your child has autism, you shouldn’t necessarily get a free pass when it comes to basic parenting. Just because your child has autism, does that mean you don’t have to teach your child how to be polite?

Here are some examples I have recently observed:

1. A mom comes into a special needs facility with her child. I do not know the mom or the child, so therefore know nothing about them. However, I observe the mom put the child into the first available spot in the lobby, half of a love seat couch. Already seated on the couch is a mom whose young daughter had been sitting in the seat next to her. The daughter had gone to the bathroom, and I assumed was expecting her seat to be empty when she returned.

It was not.

Where was the mom of the new boy asking if that seat was taken? No asking. She had gone to the front to sign in her son and ignored where her son was sitting.

While the mom was signing in her son, the boy took a pillow, put it on the shoulder of the woman sitting on the other half of the love seat, and laid his head on the pillow.

When the mom was done signing in her son, she DID NOT correct the boy. The boy was rudely laying his head on a stranger’s shoulder (and sitting in her daughter’s seat), but instead went and got a chair, moved it next to the boy, and plopped herself in the chair.

She sat there MONITORING the boy, but did and said NOTHING about the inappropriate behavior. She also said NOTHING when the woman’s daughter returned and looked for her seat. The daughter had to squeeze in next to her own mom on the other side of the couch.

The woman with the daughter has another child, her son is with my son in a social skills group. I know her, she is quiet and polite. The mom and I were only a few minutes away from going to the back to pick up our kids, I guessed that she didn’t want to say anything due to shyness and the fact that she wasn’t staying long.

But, really? Is that acceptable?

I say you have a responsibility to teach your child that you don’t just go laying your head on a stranger’s shoulder, whether your child has autism or not.

Or, maybe you ask a person before you plop your child down onto a seat! The woman was rude and failed with some pretty important teaching moments.

Where’s the teaching moment here?

This is not a special needs teaching moment I am talking about. But, perhaps some parents of special needs kids think that they get a pass?

You don’t.

Parents have a responsibility. This child did not appear to be that severe. His behavior needed correcting by a responsible parent.

2. In the same facility, during the last few months, another mom has been bringing in her son. Again, I do not know this mom or her son. But, each week her son comes in and hides. He remains hidden underneath a table or wherever until his facilitator comes to get him.

I bring this up because one time the mom let the son go underneath the table right next to me. I had no problem with right next to me, except that he did it in a manner which almost knocked over my drink.

When this mom was finished signing in her son, she proceeded to sit down and let her son remain underneath the table. She did not watch him duck underneath my table nor did she see the drink almost get knocked over.

This is not the first time I have witnessed this behavior from this child. The first time I saw it, I said, “Well, maybe the child is new and he’s nervous and needs time to get used to the place.”

But, then it kept happening and happening. And, the mom continues to do NOTHING!

Again, when are parents of special needs kids stepping in with teaching moments?

Am I perfect? No. Do I catch every teaching moment? No.

But, I’m often looking out for them because I’m a mom. Not just a mom of special needs kid. I’m sometimes a parent who has a responsibility to teach my child to behave properly.

This mom could be saying, “Okay, come out from under the table. Big kids don’t wait for their facilitators underneath tables. They sit in chairs.” Maybe not right away, but eventually there’s a teaching moment here being missed.

But, no, the mom remains quiet.

3. There is a great example of a mom who brings in twin autistics who seem to be pretty severe.

This mom always goes out of her way to make sure her kids sit properly and don’t wander. And, she has two to deal with. She must be exhausted, but she consistently watches them and helps them to act as appropriately as possible.

Is there an excuse?

Parenting is a hard job. Add in parenting of a special needs child, and your job is even harder!

I know some parents are tired. Even parents of typical kids get tired, so toss in autism (especially the mom of those twins), and I imagine some pretty intensive exhaustion!

Is that an excuse? It is okay to enter a special needs facility and let your child loose?

I say no.

I say the moms in examples one and two had opportunities and missed them.

Have I pounced on every single opportunity? Of course not.

However, I have never let my son lean on a stranger’s shoulder. I typically ask if a seat is available. I model behavior for my son or I ask him to ask.

Those are teaching moments.

Parents, you have an obligation to TRY to teach manners and politeness to your kids. The mom with twins does it. Plenty of parents to do, either parents of typicals or parents of special needs kids. I’ve seen it often.

You have a responsibility to be a parent, whether your child has autism or not. All of us want our kids to be a part of society, and how is that going to happen in a reasonable way if your kids don’t have your help?

To Find Kimberly Kaplan:


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Autism Intervention”

Twitter: @tipsautismmom






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