One theme of this blog is how discovery learning (aka Constructivism, aka experiential learning, aka incidental learning) particularly disadvantages children on the autistic spectrum. AS children are less able than other kids are to pick things up incidentally from social context, and depend on direct, structured instruction--whether the subject is turn-taking or fractions.
One subject I haven't addressed is politeness. But now, reading up on the wisdom of Temple Grandin for an online course I'm designing on high functioning autism, I've realized that the same issues arise here. Especially since politeness has gone the way of reading (Balanced) writing (Workshop) and arithmetic (Reform). Here's a quote from Grandin:
Fewer and fewer parents are taking the time to instill manners and teach proper social etiquette to their children. It's having a ripple effect. Young parents today aren't even conscious of some of Miss Manners' rules, which used to govern society when I was young and growing up.Of course, each society at any given time strikes a different balance between how formulaic vs. spontaneous and heart-felt our interactions with others should be, and different people have different personal preferences. For those on the autistic spectrum, however, there's a distinct downside when the rules become too spontaneous, unstructured, and untaught.
Typical kids are able to deal with this shift in emphasis on teaching social functioning skills--they have the brain capacity to learn by watching other kids and still pick up manners if they need them, despite not being directly taught. But the Asperger kids can't learn by observation; they need direct teaching, direct experiences--they need that structure that used to exist in the social world. It's not there at home or at school, and they're lost as a result.
(From the Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism.)