Helping Your Autistic Child Become More Sociable

Children with the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have a tough time dealing with social situations. For some reason, their brains don’t develop properly leaving these children with social shortcomings. Through early intervention and therapy, some of the social skills can be taught and learned. Simple things such as eye contact or understanding physical contact are things that we take for granted, whereas a child on the autism spectrum has difficulty with these mundane tasks. The key to social therapy is finding the appropriate therapist or teacher who understands the disorder and how to incorporate play to make behavioral learning fun.

Autism and Social Interaction

 Helping Your Autistic Child Become More Sociable

Social interaction with children on the autism spectrum can be daunting. Children not affected by autism may not realize that common everyday interaction is not as simple to a child with autism. These social interactions can be compounded by the fact that children with ASD have difficulty communicating, both verbally and nonverbally.

In everyday life, we read other peoples intonation and body language to pick up the subtleties in their communications with us. Somebody suffering from autism doesn’t have this ability to read the other persons subtle communications. This can lead to all kinds of social blunders where somebody affected by autism unintentionally insult a person or ask a question at an inappropriate time. By doing so, they can open themselves up to ridicule or even physical conflict.

Social Skills Training

Since we know that those affected by ASD can have problems with social interaction, what is the course of action is available to help them overcome this? In a great article written for the website autism.about.com, Lisa Jo Rudy (an Autism Spectrum Disorders expert) explains how social skills training can have a positive effect on those affected by ASD. She points out that as autism spectrum disorders are becoming more common, a new field has evolved. This is the field of teaching social skills to those affected. Unfortunately, she also points out that there is no official certification for a social skills therapist or an association for these therapists. These therapists tend to be social workers, occupational therapists, and speech/language therapists who specialize in dealing with autism.

In the recent past, many books and videos have become available for parents who attempt to try this by themselves. Basically, these books and videos model different types of interactions and give hints or tips to show how to appropriately handle social situations.

How does Social Skills Training work?

 Helping Your Autistic Child Become More Sociable

As Lisa Jo Rudy points out in her article, there is no official certification for a skills training therapist, so techniques can vary.

  • She points out that in a school setting therapy may consist of group activities incorporating children who are autistic and typically developing peers.
  • Generally speaking, these activities focus on game playing, sharing, and verbal interaction. These activities can be overseen by school psychologists for social workers.
  • Other groups may meet outside of school and group by need. Unfortunately, these are usually paid for privately and are probably not covered by insurance (we all know how great insurance companies can be).
  • Any other activity that involves a group of children interacting with each other can be utilized as a skills training opportunity.
  • Whether it’s drama training or something as simple as video modeling all can be used to teach social skills.

The key is to make these social activities for autism not only educational but fun and entertaining!!

How to improve Social Skills in a Child with Autism?

In order to teach social skills to an autistic child, it is advisable to try to find a therapist who is experienced in social skills training. Together with the therapist, a game plan can be designed specifically for that child and their social needs. Some autistic children are nonverbal; therefore the use of pictures may be useful to teach communication and social skills. Some higher functioning children might respond well to the use of musical instruments in a kind of fun marching band activity.

  • Melissa & Doug offer the Melissa & Doug Band in a Box and the Beginner Band Set. They are perfect for preschoolers and offers everything you need to start your own little marching band to help children develop communication and social skills.
  • Another great way to promote social skills, self-expression, and social awareness is through the use of board games.
  • You can even use games which allow children to identify certain emotions such as happy/sad, angry, annoyed, or proud/worried. They are great for children ages five and above to teach them to recognize certain emotions.
  • Puzzle games allow participants to guess what the reactions will be through the use of photographs, so writing skills are not necessary. They are a great icebreaker and allow children to get to know one another while developing skills in self-expression and empathy.
  • For children who are nonverbal, a great device is the phrase or sentence maker communicator which allows them to combine their own prerecorded words or phrases to create their own unique sentences.
  • Some games which use sign language to provide numerous social, emotional, cognitive, and communicative benefits can also help you.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter what activity you choose, make sure they are fun and entertaining for those participating.

 

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