What Manners to Teach Kids with Autism

Manners are a type of social skill, and one I’m often asked about! How do you know what manners to teach? How do you teach them? Everyone wants to teach their children manners, but we have to be careful. Join me today as I share personal stories of how I really struggled to teach Lucas manners, the mistakes I made, and how you can avoid them. In this episode, I’m giving you some insight into what manners to teach kids with autism, and how to teach them.


  • How I teach the word “thank you” in its appropriate context.
  • Why I don’t use “i’m sorry” after problem behavior
  • A fun way to teach “excuse me”
  • Techniques to teach manners naturally

There are a lot of ingrained habits that many of us have for teaching children manners. When Lucas was little, we taught him to say “God bless you” when someone sneezed. Then we taught him to immediately say “Thank you”, followed by “You’re welcome”. Inadvertently, we taught all of those phrases together in a single “God-bless-you-thank-you-you’re-welcome”  phrase.  Now let’s talk about how I can help you to prevent making this mistake. 

Teaching Manners

There are three common mistakes that parents and professionals make when teaching manners, and chaining phrases together, as we did with my “God bless you” example. You may be surprised to hear that I don’t recommend teaching a child to say “I’m sorry” after problem behaviors.

In addition, parents and professionals often teach manners too early, before a child has the proper language framework in place, and they also make the mistake of not teaching manners systematically. But, then you may ask how you should teach a child manners, such as “please”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome.”

Before teaching a child with autism these phrases, it’s important to assess where they’re at in their language ability. A child must have hundreds of spontaneous two-word utterances before they can learn to appropriately use polite phrases. When they’re taught these phrases before they have a strong language background, then there is a risk of a carrier phrase being attached to a word. For example, using the command “Say ‘thank you’” will not teach the child “thank you”; a child will hear the whole phrase as the correct word to say and they may end up saying “cookie-please-thank-you”.

Teaching manners in a systematic way means focusing on the child’s wants and needs. When mands are naturally paired with manner phrases and continue to be at the center of the child’s programming, they become natural reinforcers. One of the reasons that I no longer teach the phrase “God bless you” is because there aren’t any natural mands to pair with it, and there really isn’t anything in it for the child. Teaching manners in a way that makes sense to the child is the best way to help them learn polite phrases.

So remember to be careful what manners to teach a child with autism, and avoid phrases like “I’m sorry”. I hope you learned a lot from this episode, and if so, please tell me by leaving a review on your favorite podcast listening service.

manners to teach kids
Podcast 98