Autism is a developmental disorder that impacts a child’s ability to exhibit cooperative behaviors and socialize. This can meddle with positive peer relations and hamper social skills.
Children suffering from low functioning autism face even greater challenges when it comes to socializing. Effective therapy can certainly be useful, where kids with autism can develop coping techniques and skills to boost their social skills.
If your kid possesses limited social skills, it doesn’t mean they can’t improve. Follow these useful tips to encourage social improvements.
Promote Social Skills through Imitation
If you want your child to learn how to make friends, be a friend to them. Try and sit with them during lunchtime or include them in group activities that you do with other kids. You can also play pretend games such as ‘school,’ ‘restaurant,’ or ‘shop.’ This will help your child understand how to take turns, share and respond to others.
Teach Your Child About Feelings
Help them understand that it’s okay to feel sad, happy, scared, or angry. You can do this by reading stories that show different emotions or by role-playing different scenarios. For example, if your child feels scared, you can play ‘monsters in the closet’ where they have to be brave and use their imagination to get rid of the monsters. This will help them understand and cope with their feelings better.
Understand Your Child’s Limits
You know your child best, so you will be aware of the situations they can handle and the ones they can’t. Don’t put them in situations where they will feel overwhelmed or anxious. For instance, if your child doesn’t like loud noises, don’t take them to a crowded place. However, if they like animals, a trip to the zoo could be a great social activity.
Encourage Them to Join Activities
There are many activities that your child can join that will help improve their social skills. Sports are great as they teach children how to work together and cooperate with others. There are also clubs and groups specifically designed for kids with autism where they can make friends and have fun while learning social skills. You can help them play card games, charades, or even puzzles that require teamwork and communication.
Set Up Playdates
Arrange for your child to meet up with one of their friends from school or club activities for a playdate. This could be at your house, their house, or even at a local park. This is a great way for them to practice their social skills in a safe and comfortable environment.
Reward Good Behavior
Whenever your child exhibits good social behavior, praise them for it. This could be anything from saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to sharing their toys with others. You can also hug them to show your affection and make them feel good about their progress. Rewarding good behavior will encourage them to keep up the good work.
Set the Right Environment at Home
Children learn best by observing and copying those around them. If you want your child to have good social skills, you need to model the behavior yourself. This means being polite, using please and thank you, and generally just being respectful to others. You should also try and limit screen time as this can be harmful to social development.
Having autism doesn’t mean that your child can’t have good social skills. With a little help and guidance, they can certainly learn how to interact with others and make friends. Just remember to be patient, be understanding, and most importantly, be there for them.