Mixing and mingling

Shahla and I had a book signing a week ago. Donna Fielder, a wildly successful Denton author, encouraged me to talk to the owners of the newest book store in town, Patchouli Joe’s, to see whether they were interested in hosting an event for us like they did for her. It took a while for me to screw up the courage, but once I did, they were as gracious as Donna described.

Shahla and I didn’t know quite what to expect, but we prepared for the gamut, from doing a formal reading before a crowd of strangers to sitting quietly in the hopes that at least one or two book buyers stopped by. Turned out, many friends and family came and we had a different kind of crowd. Suddenly, a formal reading didn’t seem right, so I asked if anyone had questions. We were off and running. After about an hour, we were getting tired, so Shahla deftly ended the Q&A. A few people lined up to get books signed, but most lingered, browsing the shelves and chatting with each other.

Shahla and I answer questions about our new book at Patchouli Joe’s in Denton. Photo by Annette Fuller.

Up until then, Sam had been sitting behind us in a comfy wing chair. When he recognized that it was mix-and-mingle time, he popped up from the chair and started walking around the store, introducing himself and chatting with people. I couldn’t help but smile. That afternoon, Sam was doing much better than I was in being a social butterfly.

Here’s why. Years ago, he joined a local dance club. He learned Eastern swing dance steps, met lots of new friends, and waited patiently for women to ask him to dance. He was out in the community in this highly social way at least once, usually twice, a month. As the pandemic has waned, the dance club is slowly rebooting and he’s been out dancing again. He’s enjoying the return of social sparkles.

When Sam was little and learning to imitate and to talk, I thought we were going to have to break down all kinds of skills into incremental steps in order for him to learn. But once he learned to talk and to imitate, that elevated his ability to “learn to learn.” Suddenly, we didn’t have to break things down anymore. I never fully understood that phenomenon until Shahla explained behavioral cusps: once a person masters a skill or environment, that often leads to picking up other kinds of skills and expanding opportunities. Sam absorbed a variety of social skills while learning to dance.

Not everyone is the same. For example, I’m not sure that joining a dance club would boost my introverted ways. But, finding and achieving a cusp is something powerful to think about when you feel stuck. We touch on this concept several times in the book. Working toward a behavioral cusp can help us achieve progress and sustainability in our parenting. We all learn this way our whole lives–it’s one of humanity’s super powers.

P.S. Where to buy our new book, Responsible and Responsive Parenting in Autism: Between Now and Dreams


  1. Carl Binder on July 3, 2022 at 11:59 pm

    The book you have written together is a beautiful and precious gift, for everyone, including but not limited to parents. It’s close to poetry at times, exquisite poetry.

    • Peggy on July 4, 2022 at 2:55 am

      Thank you. Thank you so much.

  2. Annette Fuller on July 4, 2022 at 12:04 am

    Behavioral cusps — great topic. Never thought about it that way. One good learning experience leads to another. Yay for that!

  3. Ann Hatch on July 4, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    Congratulations on your new book with Shala! Wanted to be there but I was recovering from COVID. Sounds like Sam can work a room better than most of us. Behavioral cusps are intriguing. Take care and keep writing!

    • Peggy on July 12, 2022 at 1:19 pm

      Heard from Donna that you were ill. Hope you’re better now. This latest round of covid seems to be hitting everyone again!

  4. Shelly Tucker on July 9, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    It’s wonderful to hear that Sam can work a room! He has come so far. And congratulations on your new book! I wish you well with it. Behavioral cusps. Now, I know how, when I became a storyteller, I went from being an introvert to being am “extroverted introvert.”

  5. Peggy on July 12, 2022 at 1:18 pm

    That is a great way to think about it, Shelly. Kind of staying the introvert you are, but putting some of those extroverts’s skills to work.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.