Not long ago, Anna and I overheard Melina playing a game with Daniel. She called it “Do You Know Me?” She was asking him questions like “What is my middle name?” and “What is my favorite superhero?” And he was answering.
Anna and I both realized at about the same time that what Melina was doing was absolutely brilliant. She had Daniel engaged through the use of a game format, and the same was a social game. By asking Daniel these kinds of questions, she was letting him know that there were aspects of people that he could know that was similar in nature to his other interests.
She also expanded the questions beyond herself to include the rest of the family. For example, she asked him, “What is daddy’s middle name?”
It probably won’t surprise anyone that Daniel did quite poorly in correctly answering these questions at first. And some of the answers were surprising. I mean, even I would have guessed as he did that Melina’s favorite superhero was “Super Girl”, and would have never guessed in a million years that it was “Black Widow.”
Melina has played this game with Daniel several times, and my wife, Anna, has also taken to playing it with him. And Daniel has responded—and learned more about everyone in the family. If you know and understand people better, it’s easier to be social around them.
But there is another aspect to this game. Daniel of course has to ask questions himself. Which helped develop his language and ability to engage in conversation. It also helps him understand that there’s always give and take: if you want people to learn about you, you have to learn about them.
For neurotypical people, most of the answers to “Do you know me” questions will just be picked up from fragments of conversation and observation. However, this doesn’t happen with autistic children. To varying degrees, they need to be directly told, directly taught any number of social cues and situations.
In other words, these are the kinds of questions people on the spectrum ought to be asked so they can learn the answers about the people around them. Them knowing a bunch of trivia about you might even make an autistic person want to get to know you even better, just like Daniel has been doing more and more with his family and classmates.