Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reflections on Greeting Strangers in Public

I posted this morning about greeting strangers in public.

During the period of time where my daughter was really "into" greeting strangers according to their culture or ethnicity, I had to be on alert while we were in public. Her mind was making an instant association with a TV show for children the second she recognized a person from a certain culture or ethnicity. That meant that I had to increase my "radar". Increasing my "radar" also means I must guard against growing more learned helplessness. (See my right side bar of labels for the posts on "learned helplessness".)

I increased my "radar" to be more aware of people around us, seeing the world through my daughter's eyes. It's a lot of work, actually, to be on alert for a potential opportunity. If I saw a group of Asian people shopping, I would watch my daughter for the point where she saw them. My joint attention had to work on her behalf, too. And I had to grab her attention, then, because I wanted her to reference ME, follow my cue. A hand on her shoulder is often enough to get her attention. When she referenced my face, I could make a slight frown, use a slight head-shake to indicate "no" - but I had to wait until the moment our attention was shared, so she knew what was in my mind/attention.

And, while she wanted to greet the Asian group shopping in the same store as we were, she was able to refrain from doing so, based upon my nonverbal cues in our nonverbal conversation because she'd referenced what was in my mind.

Not long after that, she saw a group of people from India, and she looked at me, referenced me, and told me, "Mom, I am NOT going to say 'Namaste' to those people!" She was proud of herself.

I thought the matter was a done deal months ago. Over. Lesson learned. I turned off my "radar".

And then, recently, she did it again - left my side to run up to a person with a particular ethnicity to say hello to them in the language she assumed they speak.

So, we began, again, working, in context, NOT FOR HER TO MEMORIZE A RULE, but for her to reference me for what is appropriate in those situations, to reference me before leaving my side at a store. We've not had to practice referencing Mom at a playground in a situation where she sees a person or ethnicity (I consider "teenager" an "ethnicity" in this case) that triggers an association with a TV show. But in reflection, now, I think we're going to have to figure out a way to do that.

5 comments:

Debbie said...

I am really enjoying your blog and reading your insights into the way your daughter thinks. You are such a good mom!

Penny said...

Thank you, Debbie, for sharing the journey with me. Autism is so interesting. And challenging. I sometimes think I'm earling a PhD in my daughter.

Erin said...

I've been reading and re-reading this post and the others related to it. What I keep focusing on is the fact that you don't want your daughter to memorize a rule, you want her to reference your non-verbal cues. I really like that. My daughter is rule-oriented, and tends to obey the rules, so we've focused on getting her to memorize, forgetting that joint attention and taking cues from body language is just as important. Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts, Penny. It's really helpful to people like me.

The Glasers said...

Unfortunately, the teen culture presented on television is not really appropriate for social interactions in real life. It really is a shame. However, you hit the nail on the head. Referencing you is much safer than referencing television.

Penny said...

If I could keep enough cable TV for news and sports and my occasional reality show (Biggest Loser), I'd get rid of all the other channels. I know y'all got rid of cable, Tammy. I wish I could pick my own channels. We have blocked a lot, and may have to block some more, which makes the sibs quite upset.

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