Every other Sunday, the Monster goes to his program at the JCC for the afternoon. He gets to be supervised and do all kinds of social play, and an hour of swimming to boot at the end.
What always amuses me, though, is how he reacts when he comes out to meet me afterwards. Without fail, he tends to appear, and without a word to his counselor or to me, lets go of his counselor’s hand and comes over to take mine (even if it’s not offered yet) and quietly stands next to me until I do something about it.
(Which, of course, is not to say that I “do something about it”, but rather than it amuses me that this is an automatic behavior, and he’s pliant about being taken from there to the car to head home.)
But… to be honest, this also concerns me. Granted, the Monster knows me – and he should, since I’m his father – but is he mindful of his surroundings? Would he readily go off with another person besides me?
In other words, while I’m not looking for him to be afraid of strangers, does he really have a proper sense of stranger danger to protect himself?
I have to admit that I haven’t seen him in enough unfamiliar environments to know how he would behave when placed with people he doesn’t know. I do know that he readily gets on the bus each morning, he spends time at school, and he goes to his camp and the JCC without any trouble… but those are all environments that he knows well. He knows what he is and is not supposed to be doing (I think) within them, and probably has a basic concept that everyone there is ‘safe’. And that’s the problem that I see, and something at the moment that I don’t quite know how to teach him.
I know that when I was a kid, we had a ‘password’, even for familiar adults, if we were picked up from school or elsewhere. But I was a NT child, and knew enough about my environments to have that spidey-sense about when someone or something seemed wrong about the situation. (Or, hell, when it didn’t match with what I’d been told about the day’s plans.) I don’t think that the Monster yet has that level of functioning, more so because he’s not even generally aware of what day it is save for when someone prompts him.
I’m open to thoughts, if anyone’s come up with a good way to teach low-to-moderately verbal children with Autism about proper conduct regarding strangers…