Strategies for Teaching Manners to Students with Autism

Instructor: Lori Sturdivant

Lori has a specialist's degree in Instructional Leadership/Mild Moderate and currently serves as the Lead Teacher for The University of Southern Mississippi's Autism Project.

Are you looking for engaging, effective ways to teach manners to your learners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? This lesson will guide you with real-word examples and helpful hints.

Teaching Manners to Students with ASD

If you have students who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you may notice that some of them experience problems with social skills, or manners. Students with autism spectrum disorder may struggle to clue in to social cues and body language. It can be very difficult for them to understand the needs of others to show consideration. This makes it difficult to understand how to appropriately demonstrate good manners.

Manners are actions, words and gestures we use to show politeness. This could be opening a door for someone, saying ''please'' and ''thank you,'' or shaking hands when you meet someone new. Being polite shows respect and that you are considering how others are feeling. Manners vary by culture and region. For example, it is considered disrespectful to not use ''sir'' and ''ma'am'' when speaking to adults in some areas of the US.

This lesson provides some ideas for helping your students with ASD to develop their social skills.

Teaching Manners with Social Stories

Social stories are narratives that are specifically designed to improve the social skills of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They teach skills through narratives and/or visuals that present situations where a particular skill would need to be used.

Social Story Example

Following is an example of a simple social story for a student who has difficulty looking at people and responded to them after being greeted.

Line 1: Sometimes when I am at school, new students come into my classroom. (Insert picture of classroom.)

Line 2: Sometimes I feel scared because I don't know the person. (Insert a scared face visual.)

Line 3: When I feel scared, I tell myself that new people can become friends. (Insert picture of friends enjoying being together.)

Line 4: The new student may say, ''Hello (insert student's name) '' or ~Good morning, (insert student's name)''.

Line 5: When I hear my name, I look up at the person who is speaking to me. (Insert picture of new student speaking to student.)

Line 6: I respond to the person with a similar greeting. I say, ''Hello'' while looking at the person's face.

You can make the story very personal using real-life pictures.

Students with ASD often have difficulty making eye contact and starting conversations. Teach them this trick! Have them look for the color of people's eyes when greeting them. This gets them to focus on the task while making eye contact, and it can be much less intimidating.

Using Other Strategies

Several other strategies can be effective in teaching social skills, including direct instruction, modeling and practice/role play.

Direct Instruction

You should teach social skills just as you would teach math or reading. It should be constant and explicit.

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