Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Trying to Help...and Not Succeeding

A boy came to the Information Desk. He looked about 12 years old. He had dark hair, was wearing a baseball cap, blue shirt and darker blue shorts. He had a book in his hand.

"Can I help you?", I asked.

"Do you have any other books like this one? Not this one, but like this one?", he asked.

"So you'd like a book in the same series?", I asked.

He nodded, but didn't make eye contact. I looked at the book, it was a children's graphic novel about Star Wars. On the cover were drawings of Yoda, a Sith-type character and a soldier type character.


I searched the exact title - "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" to try and get that series. Unfortunately, there are so many different Star Wars series, for all different age levels, with different authors, that it's hard to find the exact series right away. I couldn't find any others in that exact series. I found some that were similar. I showed the boy the computer screen with pictures of covers.

"Is it this one?", I asked.

"No," he said.

"How about this one?", I asked.

He shook his head.

"I can show you where they would be, want me to show you?", I asked.

He nodded his head. I took him to the children's Star Wars section where they would be if we had any others, which we did not. I also showed him the non-children's graphic novel section where we also did not have any other books in that series. I left him and his dad there to look.

About five minutes later, the boy came back up to the Information Desk. His mother was standing behind him. "Do you have any other books like this?", he asked, showing me the same book.

"We don't have any others in the store, I can try and look them up and see if we can order any. Would you like me to do that?" I started searching on the computer to see if I could find any others in the same series. I found a few that looked to be in the same series.

He didn't answer right away. "Do you have any books just like this?", he asked again.

"We don't have any here, today," I said. "We might be able to order some others in that series." I turned the screen toward him. "Is this one you are looking for?", I asked.

He shook his head. "Do you have any more like this?" he asked, showing me the book in his hand.

"We don't have any in the store," I said. "We could order some others if you'd like to do that." I was trying to figure out how to explain it to him better. I wasn't coming up with any brilliant ideas.

"Do you have any like this?", he asked again.

"No. We don't," I said. He walked away.

About 20 minutes later the mom came up to the Information Desk without her son. "I need to tell you, he was using his best skills to talk to you. You were a little short with him. He was using the best skills he had."

"I apologize if I was short. I was trying to tell him that the books he wanted were hard to find and that we didn't have them. I apologize."

"He has Asperger's. I just want you to know that he was using his best skills."

"Okay, I can appreciate that, and again, I'm sorry if I was short with him. I didn't mean to be." She walked away.

I told J. about the interaction. "What?", she said. "You. You of all people in the store treat kids with the most respect and you interact with them so well. You take the time to talk to them. I can't even believe that she told you that."

I appreciated J's validation. I do try to interact with kids and as a former teacher and a parent, I think I (usually) do a good job. I did feel frustration in trying to help this child. I know that his mom was trying to let him ask for what he needed, which is a good skill for any child. I just wondered whether it might have been appropriate for her to step in and help him understand that we couldn't find the book he wanted.

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