Etiquette and Proper Behaviors

Recently, I’ve been reading a few articles where Autistics would do or say things that society would generally consider wrong, or bad behavior, and other people would actually defend them, stating that it’s one of the challenges of Autism.

I have an issue with this.

Learning Etiquette

The fact of the matter is that no one is born with good manners. All children have to be taught what is considered good behavior and what isn’t… as well as etiquette. Saying please and thank you is a good start.

But more so than that, children learn how to eat with their mouth closed, to not slurp their drinks, to respect their elders and so on and so forth.

Autism Etiquette

Is there any reason that a person with Autism should not be taught etiquette or what is considered bad behavior? Of course not.

Temple Grandin often explains how her mother put a lot of emphasis on proper etiquette and how much that helped her later in life.

Children need to learn these things early with or without Autism as behaviors are difficult to change, especially if there is some lack of understanding as to the differences between various similar behaviors. That is to say, for an Autistic, one behavior could be considered acceptable, another not acceptable and yet be very similar in nature. This could confuse them.

So who doesn’t have good behaviors?

The fact is, there’s only two times that someone has bad behaviors…

    1. The child is not taught. The parents, for what ever reason, do not teach a child proper manners, etiquette and behaviors
    2. The child, or person later in life, makes a conscious choice to have bad behaviors

We’ve all said something wrong or done the wrong thing from time to time, but we usually learn from those mistakes. We usually adjust our behaviors along the way.

That applies to those with Autism as well. When you feel bad for what you’ve said, you don’t do it again.

It’s not ok to just be rude or to continue bad manners and use Autism as an excuse. It’s not an excuse. I may lead to some confusion but it’s not an excuse to live a life of bad manners.

Dear Parents

Teach your children good manners. Don’t presume that they won’t “get it”, don’t presume that they aren’t absorbing what you say and certainly don’t presume that it will just never apply to them because they have Autism.

If you want your child to “fit in” with society, you’re going to have to teach them what society will expect of them.

Some people will dismiss the bad behaviors your children exhibit later in life but no everyone will. You would be much better off instilling good manners in them early. It will serve them well in life.

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Stuart Duncan
I am the father of 2 great boys, Cameron (Autistic) and Tyler, his younger brother. Founder of Autcraft.
Stuart Duncan

Stuart Duncan

I am the father of 2 great boys, Cameron (Autistic) and Tyler, his younger brother. Founder of Autcraft.

0 thoughts on “Etiquette and Proper Behaviors

  • Yes, I fully support the idea that kids with autism should be taught etiquette.  In fact, they need to be taught it more than other children.  However, the playing field is not level and it’s a mistake to suggest that it is.  
    Children on the autism spectrum are less likely to learn simply by watching. They need constant correction, they need their parents to show them the best way to eat and they need to have the concepts reapplied constantly as they experience difficulty taking one set of learned behaviors into a different scenario.

    There are more challenges too, for example low muscle tone is a major factor in children on the autism spectrum. This affects tiny things like the way they hold their cutlery and even the way they chew their food. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a hurdle to be aware of.  No amount of training is going to remove those discomforts but you can train them to take breaks – and what to do with their cutlery when they are at rest.

    Finally there’s a big difference between a simple lack of etiquette and unintentional rudeness.  You can’t program for everything and there’s always going to be someone who asks “does this dress make me look fat?” or “just how stupid do you think I am” – questions to which a person with autism will often reply honestly having been taught that honesty is important and having no grasp of the time in which a lie is preferred.


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