How to Teach Manners to Autistic Children

Updated November 21, 2016

Teaching an autistic child manners is an important part of their development. While all children need to be taught manners, teaching an autistic child has its own challenges. Repetition, role-playing and having the child actively involved in their own learning are the most valuable tools to teach autistic children. Always use your individual child's strengths to help teach them, as all children learn differently. Some children respond best to certain methods of teaching while other methods are difficult for them to grasp.

Model the kind of behaviour and etiquette you expect the child to emulate. Autistic children, like other children, often want to repeat the behaviours they see around them. The more exposure they have to appropriate behaviour from their adult role models, the more likely they are to repeat what they see.

Praise consistently when the child models good manners. Children are often eager to please adults, so not only will this enforce their good behaviour, it helps boost their self-esteem when they realise that their good behaviour is being recognised by adults.

Role-play different scenarios. Many autistic children learn best when they are participating in the activity directly instead of being lectured. Pick different scenarios and act them out together, like eating at a table and sharing toys.

Teach them about kindness and consideration. Understanding other people's feelings and respecting them enough to be considerate to them is the core of proper manners. Remind them consistently that other people have the same feelings they do. If they upset another child, point it out, and ask them how they feel when they are upset. If they make another child happy, point it out, and remind them of how great it feels to be happy, explaining that their actions are responsible for that child's happiness.

Practice good manners with your child in all different locations and refrain from using specific language when you talk to them about etiquette. Sometimes autistic children can take things literally such as, "We don't throw food at the table," when really it is never acceptable to throw food in any location. Practice and discuss appropriate behaviours to show them that the same rules of etiquette apply in all different situations.

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About the Author

Anastasia Blackwood has been writing for publication since 2000. Her poetry first appeared in “Sidetracks” magazine in 2000. In 2010, Blackwood was published in "Southern Steel" magazine—a small publication for motorcycle enthusiasts. Blackwood is currently working towards her bachelor's degree in journalism at Central Connecticut State University.