June is a good time to practice manners and mannerly behavior with your teens with special needs. Common courtesy can sometimes be difficult for teen with special needs as they do not “read” the cues others take for granted. But, with a little help, you can teach manners and etiquette to your students in an easy and fun way.
How to Practice Mannerly Greetings
Students with special needs sometimes have difficulty looking people in the eye or engaging in the intimacy of a handshake. For many, desensitization is the answer to accomplishing this common greeting. By making the handshake a game, and repeating it over and over, some students can learn to approximate the steps necessary for a proper introduction and learn to say “hello” and shake hands. Here’s how:
Before you begin, use the worksheet offered here in this post to teach students how to greet and shake hands. The rubric on the second page provides a grading scale to measure success. Then:
- Use sticky notes. Depending on your group’s level, either write down words or draw pictures of a group of similar objects. For example, you might use “fruits.” Individual sticky notes would say: “plum,” “grapes,” “kiwi,” “orange,” etc. Or, you may choose “animals” and put stickers of dogs, cows, monkeys, birds, etc., on the sticky notes.
- Pass out notes without students seeing word/picture. Have students put the note on their forehead as close to the center of their eyebrows as possible.
- Give clues. Each student will approach another student and give them one clue about the word or picture on their forehead. For example, if the fruit is a kiwi, the first person may say, “it’s a fruit,” the next may say, “It’s brown,” a third might say, “It’s fuzzy,” and so on. Students go from partner to partner and provide a clue to their word while receiving a clue for their own.
- Exchange greetings. Once they’ve exchanged clues, students then say, “Hello, my name is ________.” And shake hands. Then they will move onto the next student.
- Sit down. As each student guesses his word/picture he will sit down in his chair. When everyone is seated, the game is over.
- Repeat. With students on the spectrum, or any other group who has difficulties with interpersonal interactions, you may want to repeat this game with different words until students become desensitized to the process.
For More on Manners
This lesson is from “Everyday Manners,” one of the workbooks available in the Daily Living Skills series. Other skills taught in this book include making introductions, leaving a telephone message, cell phone etiquette, flag etiquette, hat etiquette, bodily functions and noises, pedestrian etiquette, swearing, table manners and tipping.
Written on a 3rd/4th grade level with airy pages and lots of bullet-point information, these books nevertheless address teen sensibilities and humor while meeting federal guidelines for transition services and Indicator 13 requirements. For more information go to: