Menopausal mom to 2 young adult sons (one with ASD, ADHD, tic/seizure disorders and the other with attitude).

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Art of Introductions

G had been away this past week so R & I went to pick him up at the airport Saturday afternoon. After our hellos, G introduced Riley to his friend.  Riley shook his outstretched hand and said “Hi Bill”.  G then introduced R to Bill’s wife Dawn.  R looked a little confused then shook her hand and said “Hello DON” (I’m pretty sure R thought of Dawn as only a male name). We all said our good-byes and went on our way.

I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged R was with Bill and Dawn as usually R would prefer to stand on the periphery. R even managed to have good eye contact when saying hello as opposed to looking off in another direction while speaking. It appears the Business Ed Communications and Work Experience courses that he is taking at school are paying off.  I know they have practiced job interviews and meeting people in both classes. 

Here’s the thing…had I only written this first scenario about R meeting/greeting Bill and Dawn everything seemed perfectly natural, even “typical”. However when it comes to R, we’re always looking at the little things, the social nuances that he isn’t always aware of. 

So I’ve added some additional information to that first scenario as an outsider looking in on Riley World:

G introduced Riley to his friend.  Riley shook his outstretched hand leaned in a little tooo close as in...his head was past the point where their hands met and said “Hi Bill”.  Note to self: must work on personal space issues with R. Bill replied with a “Hi Riley” to which R replied back again “Hello Bill.”  G then introduced R to Bill’s wife Dawn.  R looked a little confused then shook her hand (again leaning in just that little bit extra), said “Hello DON” (I’m pretty sure R thought of Dawn as only a male name) with much more emphasis on her name than one would normally say.  Dawn replied with a “Hi Riley.” R replied back again with “Hello DON.” Next Dawn replied with “It’s nice to meet you Riley” to which R replied “Nice to meet you too DON.” We all said our good-byes (R was more than happy to say their names one more time with gusto) and went on our way. I have to say it was pretty darn cute.    

After we got home a couple of things came to mind having watched all of this: 

1.      I remember hearing that when you first meet a person if you either use their name immediately after being introduced or repeat their name three times in your head, you have a better chance of remembering their name at a later time.  I’m going to assume Riley had heard the same thing about using their name right away and about the three times but not the part about repeating their name “IN YOUR HEAD”. Tee hee. 

2.      I was curious as to how Riley shook a person’s hand. When we first tried to teach him, he would either offer his left hand or attempt to “hold” the other person’s hand.  Later that night I was praising him about something and offered him my hand to shake. He took it immediately. Let’s just say the wet noodle or dead fish handshake came to mind. Of course with R one needs to be very, VERY careful what you teach/show him for the very first time because it’s a whole lot harder to “unteach” him so I decided to leave that for another day.   

Meeting new and different people for the first time can be challenging for a lot of people (not just those with autism). I was very encouraged to see Riley interested and engaged in meeting new people. Just have to work on the handshake and "close-talker" syndrome.  :)


  1. I am so horrible with names.. its terrible.

    I analyze everything Tommy does to the core. We're working on greeting people and proper goodbyes since we have teachers and therapists coming in all the time now. The handshake, eye contact AND greeting.. all at the same time.. is so difficult for Tommy. His is Hand shake, say hello with no eye contact.. and then spin. *smh* And, he keeps forgetting which hand to use lol. This has been so challenging for me. Sounds like R did fantastic though!

    1. I'm with you...have waaaaay too many senior moments these days. Sometimes I can't remember if I've dreamt something or if it actually happened. Oish.

      It's really only been in the last 6 months or so that I've noticed R actually taking an interest. I'm never sure what may have motivated him to take an interest or if something just clicked?!?

      Up until recently whenever we had company he would usually just dash by. If I would call him back, he would let out one of his screams, slap the wall on his way back and pretty much yell hello as he was dashing out of the room again! *sigh*

      Hang in there.

  2. Gosh - it's so nuanced isn't it? I can't over the level of tools he has with all that you've done for him. To think of how long I went in life with none of this. This generation of autistic kids is really going to shine!

    1. Let's hope so!

      All the "unspoken" rules, what's politically correct or not...SO confusing for sure. To try and put it into any type of perspective for anybody, I try and compare it to going to a foreign country and trying to communicate. Do you think that is a "fair" comparison that most of us NT's could relate to or can you give me a better example to use??? Thanks!

  3. At least he distinguishes between Don and Dawn (a pet peeve of mine).
    I was teaching our pastor's son, NT with ADHD, how to shake hands. "Right hand, look me in the eye, say 'good morning!'" We worked on this Sunday morning after Sunday morning. Then one Wednesday evening he came up to me, stuck out his right hand, looked me in the eye, and said "Good Morning!" Well, he learned it from me! :)

    1. That's great!

      Riley has since started to say "Nice to meet you" when he shakes hands...each and every time he shakes hand no matter when or how often he has met you before. :)