How do you deal with people trying to interact with your kid

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TheSperg
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26 Apr 2015, 2:08 am

My son is four and non-verbal, he basically totally ignores strangers and isn't going to interact with them PERIOD.

I'm ok with people trying to interact with him, but they sometimes "latch on" and get nasty verbally or seem like they want me to explain or something and I wish I could just say WALK AWAY to them(I'm not very good at dealing with people myself heh). They don't seem to understand how to let go of the attempted interaction, and I usually just stand there with a blank expression not knowing what to do.

Me and my wife had taken to saying he was deaf when he was younger, saying he is shy doesn't work it just makes them more insistent, and saying he has autism isn't great either because most aren't even sure what it is or want a more detailed story.

An example is tonight an employee at the grocery tried to give him a high five, my son of course won't even look at him, so he just holds his hand there looking at him, then at me like he expected me to do something, then at him again. Some people say nasty stuff like "what a rude child" or "why do you have that child so rude".



ellemenope
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26 Apr 2015, 3:16 am

It's hard beginning to navigate these waters. When they grow out of the baby stage people start having expectations that are just not appropriate for our kids.

When my son doesn't return a greeting or respond, I'll often prompt him and give him the words he's expected to say. If he's not into it or too distracted I'll just shrug and tell the person "Not today" or "He's very distracted by/interested in (whatever) right now". Or I'll tell them he not in the mood for talking right now. Usually it is distraction with my son and anyone with sense can see that he's paying close attention to something else that is not them. But a lot of the time he actually will respond and say something completely incongruous or inappropriate. I find this harder to explain than when he doesn't say anything. I just shrug and engage the person in a conversation with me, or else walk away. Whatever.

I don't usually feel the need to explain about autism because most people have no idea anyway.
I've never gotten any nasty comments in this type of situation, if that were the case I'd probably say something nasty back, because why not? A person shouldn't feel entitled to some kind of friendly interaction with a kid. And they certainly shouldn't assume a kid is rude. You are living abroad in a non-western culture, am I right? We are too and I find people in other cultures are a lot more interested in harassing other people's kids :lol: Some people think it's nice, which I can understand, but I find it irritating and feel boundaries are being over-stepped in some cases.

We are getting into more and more of these types of situations though, as he gets older, and with other kids too.
It's hard and I'm not sure what to say and do a lot of the time. Although I don't get embarrassed easily, I do often just want to tell people to go away when it's clear that whatever interaction they want to happen is not taking place. If we're on our way somewhere anyway, I'll just keep moving. I know my son is always listening even when it seems he isn't, so if a person is getting rude or negative I'd be sure to stick up for him and get out of the conversation.



InThisTogether
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26 Apr 2015, 11:20 am

What if you said something like "You can talk to him, but don't expect a response. He has autism and is non-verbal." Then just smile politely and see what they do. I think many people would probably just get uncomfortable, smile, and try to find a way out of the interaction. Others might say something like "Oh! My niece has autism, too, but she talks." To which you could respond "We are hopeful he will too, someday, but for right now, we just love him the way he is." When my daughter was younger, I carried autism awareness cards that I had made specifically for her that I would give to people if need be.

Others might say stupid things like "Autism isn't real" or "These days, autism is the excuse for all kinds of bad behavior" etc. To these people I would respond in a very sweet tone of voice: "Well, we are all entitled to our opinions, aren't we?" Then I would just smile and stare...I mean really stare, right into their eyes... at them until they walk away. I find the combination of sweet tone of voice, smiling and staring right into the eyes of people who are rude is usually a good deterrent for further rudeness, because you are sending mixed messages which can be confusing. You are smiling, which is non-threatening, but then you are staring into their eyes, which is threatening. Most people don't know what to do, get very weirded out, and leave. They will probably think you are very weird, but who cares? Only the ignorant would say such thoughtless things to begin with.


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Waterfalls
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26 Apr 2015, 1:50 pm

I always tried to be pleasant and make conversation if possible. Sometimes get hurt, but I believe children are watching, listening, and perhaps learning from how you respond to an awkward social situation.



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26 Apr 2015, 2:48 pm

InThisTogether typed pretty much what I was going to type. I used to carry autism awareness cards that I made with me too. I would tell them that he's autistic and does not speak, then hand them a card if they are interested in more information.

Also, I think you just have to learn not to care what strangers think (this is hard for me, it still bothers me a bit). They're going to say and think all kinds of stupid things and there's nothing you can do about it. As long as they are not mistreat your child, it's better to not care.


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Kawena
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26 Apr 2015, 2:57 pm

My son is 13 now, and this has always been the case. I get that people are being polite, but some do latch on and not let go. It gets kind of frustrating, because it stresses my son out and it makes outings sort of uncomfortable sometimes. I tend to respond to the questions and try to brush the person off. If they try long enough, it becomes clear that they aren't dealing with a typical child. We recently went into a kids' store, and my son had a comfort item with him. A young store employee joked "you're not allowed to bring that in here" and my son had a meltdown and freaked out. The employee kept trying to make up for it by coming over at periodic intervals to talk and try to redeem himself, I guess, and he had most of his conversations with me. Sometimes I just want a sign that says "he has autism, he's not purposefully being disrespectful/rude" because at his age, his reaction to social conversation appears rude. But really, it's too much, and employees have to run across all different types. In this case, I think they guy learned that his jokes may not be appropriate for every audience. I just felt bad because my son went from so excited to sort of devastated, and it took us a while to recover. My son does speak to us.



trollcatman
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26 Apr 2015, 5:23 pm

TheSperg wrote:
Some people say nasty stuff like "what a rude child" or "why do you have that child so rude".


"He's just a child, what's your excuse for being an arse?"



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27 Apr 2015, 8:54 am

The comeback I always used was "I've taught her not to talk to strangers". That puts them in the awkward position of actively subverting my teaching if they continue. The usual response is "ok, I understand" followed by a retreat. Now and then some would insist, "I'm not that kind of stranger" to which I would say "she has no way of knowing who is and who isn't, and that's the point". That always ended it.

Except for one time that it didn't end it. Some guy tried to engage her and I did my usual "I've taught her not to talk to strangers" routine. The guy huffily said "I'm talking to her, not to you" and he held a piece of candy out to her which she reached for. I pulled her hand away and said quite loudly to her (and all those in earshot), "this strange man is offering you candy, do NOT take candy from strangers". Everybody in earshot turned to stare and suddenly he looked like a pedophile to all of them (which he possibly was, it was a creepy interaction) and he left quickly.

Anyway, "I've taught him not to talk to strangers" is a good scripted reply which requires very little, if any, further explanation (unlike "he has autism"). The minority who persist can generally be shut down with "he has no way of knowing a good stranger from a bad stranger" type of explanation, which is so much easier than an autism explanation because it puts the burden on the one who started the interaction, as someone subverting a parents' needed lessons, something most people are shamed out of doing.

Caveat: this only works in cultures where "don't talk to strangers" is an expected parental lesson. In a culture with no such expectation, I got nothin'.



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27 Apr 2015, 12:21 pm

I have the opposite problem, in that my son will talk to anyone who speaks to him. And ask them to give him things (he once asked a cashier for some money from her register). And invite them to our house. And tell them jokes that don't make any sense. And refuse to end the interaction when they try to leave.
I usually just smile politely and say nothing. It irritates me that random strangers start these conversations, but I don't need to tell them they've made a mistake. They figure that out pretty quick on their own. :lol:



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27 Apr 2015, 2:42 pm

My suggestion:

"I am sorry, he just doesn't understand. He truly isn't trying to be rude. I will see if I can explain it to him later."

Hopefully they will understand that anything more really isn't their business, although some people have a hard time taking a hint.

My son isn't non-verbal or particularly shy, but definitely is clueless, and various versions of the above used to work OK for us.

Janissy brings up a really good point with the "I've taught him not to talk to strangers," because that line - social nicety v. stranger danger - is something our kids absolutely cannot get and, so, you have to default to no talking to ANY strangers.

I also found, by the way, that by MY being sociable with the person, and drawing them away from my child, they seemed to be able to resist the urge to get offended or angry.


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28 Apr 2015, 1:45 am

TheSperg wrote:
My son is four and non-verbal, he basically totally ignores strangers and isn't going to interact with them PERIOD.
...
An example is tonight an employee at the grocery tried to give him a high five, my son of course won't even look at him, so he just holds his hand there looking at him, then at me like he expected me to do something, then at him again. Some people say nasty stuff like "what a rude child" or "why do you have that child so rude".


We always smile back and tell people: our children are autistic. We don't have a problem with that. I would say people are very understanding. Sometimes, I'd even follow up with "I am, too, by the way." I view autism as a pro instead of a con.

That being said, take a look at my website under the tab "Autism Made Simple."

For the children on the spectrum, the visual signal in every single pixel in their retina is amplified. Try this: whenever your son is looking "lost," follow the direction of his eyes and see what he is looking at. I have done that with with other children on the spectrum. Most of the times they are looking at spots of maximum contrast.

These children don't look at people's faces because to them, those are either the least interesting spots, or there is just too much information for them to absorb, or the visual signals from people's faces are just too intense.

I had eye contact problem when I was young (even when I was a teenager, and I would say it only fully disappear when I was into my 30s.) Both of my children have that "lost look" earlier in their lives. Today, their eye contact is just perfect. (Son is 5, daughter is 7.) When I ask my son a question and he doesn't know the answer, he would just pause and look inquisitively into my eyes...waiting for me to give him a clue or the answer. Really cute. That was not the case earlier in his life. I have come to learn that stick figures are the way to go. Stick figures are simple, and have only two dots for the eyes, and an arc for the mouth. Those are precisely the three spots on people's faces that you want your children to focus on. That was how my children learned to look at people's faces and make excellent eye contact.

Everything is in baby steps. Eye contact is the first step towards learning a lot of other skills in life. If your child cannot focus on stick figures, there are one or two more initial steps you need to take, via video clips. Anyway, children on the spectrum have their own way of growing up. Communicate to them through their eyes, not through their ears. Develop their visual-manual skills first, before anything else. That's how their brains get developed, and many of your worries will be gone, by themselves. Tonight I just played with my son, he was showing me the car wash and the parking garage that he was building, and I just kept drawing and writing sentences on the magnetic drawing board and made him read, while he played with his toys (including the building blocks.) He talked virtually non-stop and giggled for over one whole hour. When he picked up the little cable car that had "San Francisco Cable Car" printed on it, he read it and then said: "And San Francisco needs an airplane." I guess he figured that one out by himself: that San Francisco is far away and that it takes a trip by airplane to get there. Both of my children were non-verbal. Both of my children learned to read, before learning to talk.

Autism is a gift. Later in life, you will realize that they can see things that no one else can see, they can solve problems that no one else can solve. There is no need to feel negatively about autism. The only thing is to make sure their brains are constantly being developed, especially in the visual-manual channel.


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maglevsky
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28 Apr 2015, 3:12 am

I also have a 4yo son who is non-verbal / pre-verbal, though he often does look at people and/or make unintelligible sounds at them. I'll usually say "he doesn't talk yet" and many times it works.

Problem is when people start engaging me in conversation, recommending speech therapists or whatever, as soon as my attention is not with my son he'll go off and do something else, often something inappropriate like climbing on something dangerous or sh*tting in the middle of the sidewalk. So I tend to just ignore what people are saying and focus on my son before this sort of thing happens. I end up looking rude but whatever, never cared all that much what people think of me.

The hardest was my mother in law, she used to insist on hugging & kissing him every time she saw him, no matter that it always but ALWAYS resulted in him kicking & screaming his head off. She eventually learned after about 100 times. Some folk are a bit slow I suppose :lol:


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29 Apr 2015, 9:16 am

maglevsky wrote:
Problem is when people start engaging me in conversation, recommending speech therapists or whatever, as soon as my attention is not with my son he'll go off and do something else, often something inappropriate like climbing on something dangerous or sh*tting in the middle of the sidewalk. So I tend to just ignore what people are saying and focus on my son before this sort of thing happens. I end up looking rude but whatever, never cared all that much what people think of me.


It is they who are rude. Unsollicited advice is very annoying, and patronising as they seem to assume that you haven't already sought professional advice. I have another invisible disability and as soon as it comes up people give me advice that is either stupid, or that I have tried already and doesn't work.
It's basically the same thing that this topic is about, they see a child and can't see on the outside he is different. His behavior is slightly out of the norm --> take it personally.



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29 Apr 2015, 10:59 am

Not unusually, we recently we were at a big box store---and my son was looking at appliances. It is one of his things. One of the sales guys asks me if I need help. (That part is perfectly normal and expected) I tell the guy that my son is not intending to buy, today. That is my usual line to let sales staff know we are not serious buyers when my son is looking at appliances, electronics or cell phones. The guy tries to engage my son in friendly conversation---natch. My son just gets annoyed at being interrupted because he wants to go, in order, investigating each one. You can tell the guy is about to say something critical because of course.

So then I have to think of something to say to "excuse" what looks like rudeness that sounds nice, and friendly and not too weird to the NT ear, but yet not something that would make my son feel like I am apologizing for him. I don't ever discuss autism for a number of reasons and the whole thing is a bit of a pain because I could do with less interaction with people myself.

So generally, I just say he is very serious about (refrigerators, stereos, cell phones...whatever) in a kind of friendly sing-song voice that makes me look not so bad (even though I am not correcting him and telling him to answer when he is being talked to or whatever the folks here expect.) That is really the best I can muster.



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30 Apr 2015, 5:46 pm

ASDMommyASDKid wrote:
Not unusually, we recently we were at a big box store---and my son was looking at appliances. It is one of his things. One of the sales guys asks me if I need help. (That part is perfectly normal and expected) I tell the guy that my son is not intending to buy, today. That is my usual line to let sales staff know we are not serious buyers when my son is looking at appliances, electronics or cell phones. The guy tries to engage my son in friendly conversation---natch. My son just gets annoyed at being interrupted because he wants to go, in order, investigating each one. You can tell the guy is about to say something critical because of course.

This post brings back memories. I was one of those kids that liked to browse the paints in Home Depot. I guess I was drawn to all the colors. The salespeople used to do the same thing to me, only I was 10 or so. Since I was extremely shy, their actions, no matter how friendly, almost always made me freeze up in fear.

My parents weren't too sympathetic, and often scolded me for my shyness. Me and them were eventually able to reach a compromise, where I'd muster "I"m good; I'm just looking" to the salespeople trying to engage me in conversation. Of course, being a shy aspie, whenever I got a salesperson talked to me, I sounded more scared than a suburbanite on an inner city street at 3:00 AM. So much for compromise.

But I think I'd have an easier time as a kid today in 2015. Not because of better awareness, but due to a simple fact that customer service has gone down the toilet, and you have to track down a salesperson to get any help.