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To Shake or Not to Shake—That is the Question


The second week in May is National Etiquette Month and the a good time to practice manners and mannerly behavior with your teens with special needs. Common courtesy can sometimes be difficult for teen with special needs as they do not “read” the cues others take for granted. Then add the chaos of our “new normal” post-Covid and you can have a real mess out there. But, with a little help, you can teach manners and etiquette to your students and give them the tools they need to navigate today’s manners for job interviews and other professional settings.


How to Practice Mannerly Greetings


Students with special needs sometimes have difficulty looking people in the eye or engaging in the intimacy of a handshake. And, as we all settle into a “new normal,” handshakes take on a real additional threat in the world today.


The attachment this week includes the traditional lesson on hand-shaking. A quick perusal of business magazines suggests that companies are, for the most part, going back to hand-shakes.

But, no everyone is. And, your students may not be comfortable with that for health or other reasons.


So, this blog will provide you with one option here, and another in the attachment. Students can either lift their hand in a distance greeting—or learn to give a traditional hand-shake. Or, both. You, their teacher, have a much better idea about what people are doing in your area. Use that to guide you as you provide any combination of instructions offered here.


The first suggestion is to simply raise one hand in a brief acknowledgement of the other person as students look them “in the eye” and say “hello.” The game below allows students to repeatedly practice this mannerly greeting while adhering to social distancing.


Before you begin, use the worksheet offered here to teach students how to greet and raise hands. The rubric on the second page provides a grading scale to measure success. Then:


  1. Use sticky notes. Depending on your group’s level, either write down words or draw pictures of a group of similar objects. For example, you might use “fruits.” Individual sticky notes would say: plum, grapes, kiwi, orange, etc. Or, you may choose “animals” and put stickers of dogs, cows, monkeys, birds, etc., on the sticky notes.

  2. Pass out notes without students seeing word/picture. Have students put the note on their forehead as close to the center of their eyebrows as possible.

  3. Give clues. Each student will approach another student and give them one clue about the word or picture on their forehead. For example, if the fruit is a kiwi, the first person may say, “it’s a fruit,” the next may say, “It’s brown,” a third might say, “It’s fuzzy,” and so on. Students go from partner to partner and provide a clue to their word while receiving a clue for their own.

  4. Exchange greetings. Once they’ve exchanged clues, students then say, “Hello, my name is ________.” And raise a hand to each other. Then they will move onto the next student.

  5. Sit down. As each student guesses his word/picture he will sit down in his chair. When everyone is seated, the game is over.

  6. Repeat. With students on the spectrum, or any other group who has difficulties with interpersonal interactions, you may want to repeat this game with different words until students become desensitized to the process.


For More on Manners


This lesson is from Everyday Manners, one of the workbooks available in the Daily Living Skills series. Other skills taught in this book include making introductions, leaving a telephone message, cell phone etiquette, flag etiquette, hat etiquette, bodily functions and noises, pedestrian etiquette, swearing, table manners and tipping.


Written on a 3rd/4th grade level with airy pages and lots of bullet-point information, these books nevertheless address teen sensibilities and humor while meeting federal guidelines for transition services and Indicator 13 requirements. For more information go check out the book in our shop or find us at Teachers Pay Teachers.


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