Teaching Kids with Autism How to Learn Social Skills

 You probably ask yourself every day, assuming you are a parent of a child with autism, ‘what is it going to take for my kid to make a friend?’ Or, how many times have you said either out loud or to yourself, ‘yeah, right?  A play date, don’t think so….’

You know the core deficit for kids with autism is the inability to relate to others, but can you actually teach these kids how to socialize? We know for sure children with autism certainly will not learn this by observation, so, the only way they are going to learn social skills is to teach them. Before we founded The Social Express, we tried several different approaches to helping our twins with social learning. Here are groups we have participated in:

Resources or Tools That Helped Us

A Regional Center program called The Star Program consisting of kids with autism.

The Soar program, a program in our elementary school which pairs a ‘typical’ child with a ‘buddy’ learning social skills.

An after school program at our school called “Bunch of Friends” that may or may not include ‘typical’ peers.

Each one of these programs were building blocks for our children to learn how to socialize. All of these programs included adult intervention. The programs providing the most peer interaction proved to be the most beneficial, particularly if outdoor play was included.  Programs exclusively for kids with autism, conducted in an indoor room, often provided more examples of inappropriate behavior than appropriate behavior.

We used Carol Grey’s Social Stories to help our kids learn social skills they needed to learn at various times. These included: keeping the right distance between friends, borrowing and returning supplies, and even bathroom etiquette and recently the twins have really enjoyed using Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® Seminar.

While our twin boys are alike in many ways, the peer playmates they respond best to are very different.  One of our boys responds best to girls who are full of energy, basically bossing him around to engage in dramatic play.  Our other son would exit stage right in that situation.  He is more likely to hang out around a mellow child.

As I am sure you know, every child responds differently to various approaches to teaching. Our twins happen to be visual learners as are most children on the spectrum. The Social Express exploits this learning method by incorporating video modeling, engaging characters, an interactive environment with lots of social situations they experience on a daily basis.

The key is patience, and making sure that when you have a moment which requires social skills, try not to do the talking for your child, and see if they will respond to the situation appropriately.  For example, when greeting a familiar person, let them have a chance to say hello, if they don’t, then this becomes a teachable moment.  You need to remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint.

This is how we helped our children with autism. If you would like to share what you have done to help your kids with autism, we would love for you to share. Please use the comment section below.

Image:iStockphoto

 

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