20 Manners to Teach Children with Special Needs

In recent weeks, especially those leading up to the holidays, the post 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know by age 9 from 2011’s Parents.com has flooded every social media outlet possible.


It struck me as funny about the third time of seeing it. Wondering, as to the whys of its sudden popularity? Do we have a large population of 9 year olds who are going to fail the Christmas dinner etiquette test at Nan and Poppy’s? Or is it because during the holidays our expectations as parents are upset higher for our children as well as others.

While reading the article, I envisioned little mammas everywhere sitting down with their children dressed in their Sunday best learning their manners and taking the quiz before being allowed to go to Christmas Dinner at the grandparents. Although my day-dream is more like the 70’s when I was growing up, we aren’t too off the point, ALL mammas give out those last-minute reminders….. Right??? (And Most often to the hubby?… LOL)

As a mom of three tweens, we too wrestle with the teachings of manners, acts of kindness, and responsibility. Although we started teaching our children manners, kindness and responsibility as infants, it wasn’t a one shot your done lesson. These lessons are continuing to be taught in variation everyday. When you live in an ever-changing world, where the social expectations change; your child must also be taught adaptation skills, for all those “what if” questions or situations, in addition to manners.

As a whole, I agree with much of the previous authors stand on manners. However, I believe that children learn best from having role models. But as an autism and behavioral specialist, I realize that not all children are blessed with role models to follow. I also see times where developmental deficiencies, academic challenges, and social weaknesses can hinder the learning of said skills. While others lack the appropriate role models to follow; some children may lack the knowledge or wherewithal of how to follow such expectations.

In the original article, the author made the following comment, Your child’s rude ‘tude isn’t always intentional. Sometimes kids just don’t realize it’s impolite to interrupt, pick their nose, or loudly observe that the lady walking in front of them has a large behind. The author took the approach that this behavior was due to hectic lives, busy mom and dads, and lacking the time to focus on etiquette skills. As a busy mom, I agree to some extent, but I also believe that for many children, especially like my son, who has autism, these skills must be taught in a variety of ways, across many environments, with great vigor and dedication.

Here is my list of manners, adapted from parent.com’s 2011 original, while keeping more focus on those with special needs.

Manner 1
Say “please” when requesting an item or for someone to do you a favor.

Manner 2
When someone does something nice for you, say “Thank You”.

Manner 3
Do not interrupt a grown-up. If there is an emergency raise your hand and wait to be called on or say “fire”, “help”, “I’m Sick” etc.

Manner 4
If you need to get somebody’s attention to get by them, or pass them, say “excuse me”, if they don’t hear you say it again louder. Do not touch the person or move them out-of-the-way.

Manner 5
If you’re not sure you would be allowed to do something, or what the rules are. Always ask permission first, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Manner 6
If you bump into somebody accidentally, immediately say “Excuse me.” Even if you perceive it to be their fault.

Manner 7
Do not comment about others belongings, looks or personality. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.

Manner 8
When someone ask you how you are, tell them, in a short statement such as “good, great, I made an A on my test, or not good ive been sick for several days”. Your response should not be longer than 3 sentences. You then ask how they are, and listen to their response, you can comment if you would like.

Manner 9
If someone offers you a drink, snack or something you don’t like or don’t want, politely say “No Thank You”.

Manner 10
If a door is closed, Knock firmly (do not bang) on the closed door 3 times. Count to 20 while waiting for response before entering. If open for public use. If not open to public come back later and try again.

Manner 11
When you call someone on the phone introduce yourself first and then ask to speak to the friend or person you are calling.

Manner 12
Be appreciative and say “thank you” for any gift you receive . Even if you don’t like it! Most gifts are given out of love and should be received graciously. Hand written notes or drawn pictures or art work is very welcomed by most as a thank you.

Manner 13
Don’t call others (friends, classmates, enemies, pets or animals) mean names. We all have a given name; use it unless requested otherwise.

Manner 14
Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. This is called bullying. If you are being bullied or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult. A parent, teacher, coach, pastor etc

Manner 15
If you attend a play, a movie, pep rally, concert or an assembly and it is boring, just sit through it quietly. The performers and presenters are doing their best and you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Manner 16
Cover your mouth with a kleenex or in the bend of your arm when you cough or sneeze. You don’t want to spread germs. Quickly dispose of your tissue into trash and wash hands.

Manner 17
Don’t pick your nose in public, or use your sleeve or other item to wipe your nose. Find a tissue, then dispose into trash and wash your hands.

Manner 18
If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor carrying a large load ask if you can help. If they say “yes,” do so — but be careful; they are trusting you with their items.

Manner 19
When an adult you know personally asks you for help, do it without grumbling and with a smile. If a stranger asks you to do something, ask your parents first.

Manner 20
Do not ask personal questions or make personal comments such as “Why are you so fat? How much do you weigh? I just farted or I don’t like your dress.” These are comments that are personal in nature and are okay to think but not to say out loud to others.

Although this list of manners may seem a little over zealous, for a child with special needs it is very much-needed….. In the original article it was proposed that the manners be learned by age 9. For children with special needs it will more than likely take more time. But that doesn’t mean you don’t teach them or expect them to learn. You just work on it more diligently and for longer periods of time.

I am positive many of you could add to this list! I would love to hear your ideas!

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