Explicit instruction in social situations has been and will continue to be a constant in our lives.
When I initially began to teach Obie to say his name, it was with safety in mind. I was afraid if he got lost he wouldn’t be able to communicate enough to share that essential information.
Then he began to ask me “who is that?” when meeting new people, so we evolved from a safety perspective to a socially appropriate way to gain the information of someone else’s name.
Months. Months of reminders, encounters, and he was finally able to remember that we say “Hello. What’s your name?”
So with all that work and his willingness to make a social connection, it is so disappointing when people don’t reciprocate. In a recent meetup with families with kids who have special needs this was a common frustration shared. Sure, the caregivers work towards the goal of socially appropriate interactions, but the kids work so much harder to engage, and it is incredibly disheartening when it just isn’t returned in kind.
Sometimes it’s kids at the park. As it turns out, kids don’t usually introduce themselves in that way. According to Booger, kids just call each other “Hey” or “Man” or “Dude” until another friend says the kid’s name and they pick it up. He also reports that, “I just ask a friend who that other kid is.” 😂
Sometimes it’s adults at the pool. “Hello!” is met with stares or uncomfortable giggles. It’s just a hello, people! He might ask to play with you, but even that wouldn’t be the end of the world!
So the next time you’re put in a position that a kid says “hi” just say “hi” back! The dimpled smile he returns may just be the best thing you’ve seen all day!
When you’re at the park and a kid says hi to your kid, let’s teach common courtesy and return of social exchanges. You don’t know how much courage, effort, and time it took to get there, but it could just make that kid’s day!
When you’re at the store and a child approaches, says hello, and asks your name, for the love of everything, tell her “Hi”, tell her your name, and maybe, just maybe, ask her what her name is, too! Taking that extra second to exchange niceties with another human being could be more valuable than you’ll ever know!