Children with autism struggle with communication and social skills. It can be very frustrating for an autistic child, especially as he or she ages, to try to figure out the whole “communication thing”. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help improve your child’s social skills and decrease their frustration.
Practice Makes Perfect
See if your child’s school offers classes to teach social skills. If they offer social classes, enroll your child. If they don’t offer classes, yet have a large number of autistic children, perhaps you could advocate for such a class.
Some community groups and therapy practices also offer classes. A downside to these groups are that they may be costly and the cost may not be covered by insurance.
Model Good Behavior
Obviously, it’s important that you model good behavior for your children. Be polite and courteous to people that you meet and point out courteous behavior to them when you are out and about. Likewise, it’s important to also point out poor behavior and explain why you feel it is such.
For example, did you see how that person walked right in front of our grocery cart? It’s rude to do that. If you need to walk in front of someone, say excuse me. Or, did you see how that man helped that lady when she dropped her groceries? That was thoughtful of him.
Ask your child to point out examples of good and bad behavior and explain why the behavior is good or bad.
For some autistic children, it’s helpful to have them see a counselor. A counselor can help them identify and label their emotions. A counselor can also work on improving social skills. For example, my daughter’s counselor gave her an emotions chart. This chart has facial expressions and identifies the kind of emotion that each expression reflects. It sounds simple, but this was a huge breakthrough for my child. She told me that she finally got that when people’s face looked a certain way, it meant that they were sad. By the same token, although she couldn’t identify what she was feeling and describe her emotions, she could choose which facial expression best matched how she was feeling. This really helped her!
Helping your child improve his or her social skills is an ongoing process that takes time. Improving your child’s skills means repeating the above steps over and over and over. Did I mention repeating things over and over? Don’t become discouraged during the process and quit!
Do you have any tips to share that have worked for your child? Please post!