Brian Learns to Read Social Cues

Group 1
Brian (center) at the National Blues Museum


Brian has come a long way in his almost 20 year involvement with Pathways to Independence (PTI).  It can be tough for our participants to learn how to make relationships between people work. Knowing how his behavior and choice of topic affects different people in different ways is a skill that Brian is continually working on. Brian says, “Before Pathways, I was kind of antisocial.
I didn’t know what to say about certain topics…like with politics, private issues or personal information about others. It was hard to know what topics I could bring up in certain situations.” He also felt like he “couldn’t talk to people over the phone; I would call people too often. I used to get jealous because I felt like they would talk to my other friends, but they wouldn’t want to be bothered with me. That made me feel angry, upset and sad.”

Learning social appropriateness, phone etiquette, reading social cues and learning what topics should be brought up in certain situations have been the key to Brian’s success.  Brian initially joined PTI because “I wanted to participate in social events and have something to do. I also wanted to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures.”  Brian says, “I learned not to talk about certain topics or issues out in the open.” In PTI, through trial and error, staff support and lots of practice, Brian has learned which topics can be taboo in certain situations or when meeting people for the first time. The PTI staff “are professional and they tell me when I’m laughing or talking too loud, or saying things that are inappropriate.” He always appreciates the feedback and has built upon his existing knowledge and skills to keep the conversation fun, lively and light-hearted, but appropriate. He also has vastly improved his phone etiquette through staff coaching and practice. He has learned timing, frequency and suitable topics to discuss over the phone with new or existing friends.

Another important social skill Brian has developed through his experience with PTI is conversation. He has learned to read other peoples’ reactions and cues in order to know if he needs to move on to a different topic. “I’ve learned how to tell when people aren’t interested in what I’m interested in.” On top of that, Brian has made connections with other participants by learning to ask questions, “I’ve learned to ask people questions such as their hobbies, where they live or what do they like to do.” This has led to deeper friendships where he can discuss some of those sensitive topics and discover shared interests that may not be appropriate for all social settings. “I’ve made friends with people who share the same interests as me. Its cool to talk to someone who agrees with you on certain issues.”

Brian has lived independently since 2007 and has worked at his job at UPS for 13 years. This consistency is vital for PTI participants to continue building on their existing skill sets. Adapting to change can be difficult for our population of clients.  Brian has met the goals he established when he first joined PTI of getting out of the house, participating in activities and meeting lots
of new people. He has developed his social network and remains active in the PTI community. Looking toward the future, Brian says, “I want to be happy, comfortable, independent. I want to be satisfied with life.”

Daniel Q and Brian Ack.
Brian (right) at Busch Stadium


Jeff K., Brian Ack.
Brian (right) volunteering at PTI’s Annual Trivia Night