Developing social skills: Part 2

By Kate Reid and Richard Bright, 6 August 2018 , Comments

For young people with autism or intellectual disability, one of the most important aspects of a successful job search is the development of social skills.

Northcott’s Vocational Skills Advisor Richard Bright explains the key to this skill development is building resilience and learning to understand social cues. This is achieved through modelling socially appropriate behaviour, and then supporting customers by giving them the tools they need to develop these skills.

In the second part of this two-part series, Richard takes us through some of the most important social skills for public spaces.

Social graces for public spaces

Understanding how to react if a stranger approaches you in public

This is a common scenario that makes our Vocational Skills customers anxious. When advising them how to handle this scenario, we suggest they first work out why they have been approached, as this will influence how they respond.

If the person has a clip board, it’s probably best to avoid them, unless you got up that morning really hoping to do a survey.

If they are from a charity we advise customers to be polite but remember it’s their choice whether they donate or not. If they say they would not like to donate, and the charity representative responds in a rude way, we advise our customers not to say anything to them or have an argument, just mention it to the organisation the person represents.

If someone asks a question e.g. for directions, we always advise customers to stay arms length from the person speaking to them. This is a protective behaviour that keeps the customer safe in case the person who approached them doesn’t have the best interests of the customer in mind. People with intellectual disability aren’t always aware of potentially risky situations.

Overall we advise customers that if they are approached in public it’s generally best to be polite and then move on.

Dealing with crowds and public spaces

The most important thing is to learn both protective behaviour and common curtesy. Common curtesy isn’t always extended to people with disability, so therefore they don’t always recognise that they need to extend that curtesy to others. People with disability are often talked about or talked over, so unfortunately, they then ‘learn’ that that’s acceptable behaviour.

Common curtesy would cover things like standing up and offering your seat to an elderly, pregnant or less mobile person on public transport, waiting patiently in a line rather than pushing in, and not talking loudly about the people around you.

Related Content

Want to know more? Get some tips for handling work places in developing social skills: Part 1.

Find out how our Skills 4 Life program uses practical skills to build confidence in teenagers.


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