Building Social Skills: Tips for Children with Autism
Most of us learn valuable social skills at an early age. These are the rules and customs that dictate interactions with other people. Many of these skills are picked up naturally over the course of interacting with adult figures like parents and teachers. For example, we quickly learn how to ask for help and what nonverbal cues to look for to tell us how someone is feeling. But for children on the autism spectrum, it’s an entirely different story.
Autism is a developmental disability that affects social interactions with other people. Symptoms typically include delays in language learning, intense focus on repetitive actions, and inappropriate behaviour in public settings. The severity of the symptoms vary for each individual as some cases may be milder while others can be more severe.
Children with autism often need guidance on how to act in certain situations like playing with other children or meeting someone for the first time. Building social skills is certainly possible but it takes practice and a lot of patience. If your child has autism, here are some tips on how to help them build social skills.
Model Appropriate Social Interactions
Young children often learn by observing and imitating the behaviour of those around them. That means the best learning source for your child is you. How you act and behave has a major impact on your child’s development. When you model appropriate behaviour and provide a detailed explanation, your child will have a clearer picture of what’s expected in certain situations.
Make a conscious effort to model appropriate behaviour as often as possible. Even if your child carefully observes you, he or she may not fully understand the reason behind such interactions. Take the time to explain every detail of each encounter and the rationale behind your actions. Then allow your child to ask any questions.
Use Personalised Teaching Stories
Children with autism benefit greatly from having information presented in a visual format. Teaching stories are an indispensable tool for showing children with autism how to approach certain situations and what’s expected of them. These don’t need to be complicated either. For example, you can use a template with pictures and text descriptions that describe situations like going to a restaurant or a store.
With teaching stories, you don’t need to wait for real-life scenarios to happen. And you can review them with your child in the comfort of your home where they’re more likely to be comfortable. Take the time to explain each situation and what’s appropriate.
Role Play Different Scenarios
Learning about something and actually doing it are two completely different things. Modelling social interactions and using personalised stories are great ways to build social skills. But it would be even better to give your child the opportunity to practice specific interactions.
Role play certain scenarios with your child by having him or her play one person in a situation (e.g. restaurant guest). Practice taking turns and offers positive feedback. With role play your child can practice interactions in a low-risk environment. Remember to be patient with your child as you may have to practice each scenario multiple times.
Alex Morrison has worked with a range of businesses giving him an in depth understanding of many different industries including house cleaning, financial support and health care. As the owner of Integral Media, he is now utilising his knowledge and experience with his rapidly increasing client portfolio to help them achieve their business goals.