Sunday, May 22, 2016


As the school year winds to a close, I have been trying to figure out what last lessons I want to teach my students in the upcoming few days I have left with them. The other day, I ran across a list Reddit compiled of courtesies that are not always practiced, which I think I will share with my classes. Posted on the website 22 Words by Abby Heugel, this list is titled “30 Things So Obvious You Should NEVER Have To Be Asked To Do Them.” [To see this list, please click here.] After running errands yesterday morning and running into all sorts of rude behavior, I realized that far too many people either have not learned these supposedly obvious lessons or have chosen to ignore them and need to be reminded of them.

Perhaps the value of these polite concepts is clearer to me because autism impairs Alex’s social skills, and we must remind him to use his manners. As an autism mom who constantly strives to make Alex a better person and as a teacher who wants to share what I’ve learned, I would like to pass along these helpful social skills. Of course, the English teacher in me needed to revise the wording and reorganize the list order from its original format, but I hope these important lessons may prove useful.

Driving and Door Do's

When driving, use the turn signal so other drivers know your intentions.

When another driver lets you in, give them the “thank you” nod or wave.

When someone holds the door open for you, say thank you.

Let the person who held the door for you go ahead of you in line.

Golden Rule Reminders

Say please and thank you to customer service employees.

Be courteous to waiters and waitresses.

“Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Clean Up!”

If you made a mess in public or at work, clean it up.

Put away equipment you used at the gym.

Clean up after your dog.

If you are a guest at someone’s house, clean up any messes you made.

Throw away your garbage.

Before putting dishes in the sink or dishwasher, scrape off the food.

Close doors, cabinets, and drawers when you are finished.

Restroom Rules

After using the toilet, flush it and wipe away mess on the seat.

If the toilet paper roll is empty, replace it.

After using the bathroom, wash your hands.

When washing your hands in a public restroom, don’t leave a mess with the water and paper towels.

Shopping Etiquette

Don’t suddenly stop walking in the middle of an aisle or sidewalk.

If you are in line with a full cart, let the person with one or two items go ahead of you.

Don’t leave shopping carts in parking spots; put them in the return areas.

Common Courtesy

Don’t take up an extra seat with your belongings if the bus or train is getting full.

Be punctual, and if you’re going to be late or not going, let the other person know.

Close your mouth when you chew.

When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth.

Respect personal space.

Make your children behave in public.

On weekends, don’t use your lawn mower before 8 A.M.

If you owe money, pay it back.

Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking.

When you are conversing with people, look at them and not your phone.

After reviewing these thirty helpful suggestions, I noticed the common thread involved in common courtesy: we must put others’ comfort and feelings ahead of our own inherently selfish behaviors. While this may not always come naturally, certainly the benefits are worthwhile. I’m reminded of a line in the play that I teach my seventh graders every year, A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley, said by Jacob Marley: “An act of kindness is like the first green grape of summer: one leads to another and another and another…the gift of goodness one feels in the giving is full of life. It…is…a…wonder.”

Certainly, I hope my students leave my classroom with increased knowledge of literature and writing and critical thinking, but more importantly, I hope they take with them a value of kindness and courtesy, the same lessons I have been teaching Alex for more than two dozen years. Although manners and polite social behavior don’t appear in state standards for instruction, nor are they part of standardized testing, I’m convinced that few things in life are more valuable than learning social skills. And now, I’m off to clean up the mess of papers and books I’ve left on my coffee table; after all, that’s the polite thing to do.

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Luke 6:31


Lynn Mayden said...

Isn't it amazing so many people do not have these skills? It is so basic. My two asperger syndrome children have trouble with a few of these. We are working on them and talking about why we need to do them. But at least they are children not grown ups.

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Lynn,

Great to hear from you--hope you and your family are doing well! I totally agree with you that it's amazing how rude some adults can be who don't have autism spectrum disorders. I have been tempted to have a t-shirt printed for Alex that says: "I have autism. What's your excuse?" On the other hand, that probably is pretty rude. Have a great summer!

Take care,