One myth about autism, that even I can remember people saying back in the day, is that people with autism don’t really want friends or they don’t care if they have companionship. Of course, today, we do know that this is completely false, especially those of us that have children with autism of our own. What we do know; however, is that children and adults on the spectrum have difficulty with social skills and need to be guided on how to interact with others. Even with guidance, it can still be a challenge. Here are some ways you can help your loved one with autism feel comfortable around others and even make long-lasting friendships!
Family friends may be able to help. Not only does a loving family understand that you have a child with autism (if this is the case), but they may know of a friend’s child who is understanding, or who also has commonalities with your child. This can help with introductions, and over time help with the development of a sound friendship. Not only do parents of a child with a unique ability go this route to suggest friends, but others do as well. Think about the playdates parents have with other parents and their children, or social gatherings that parents take their children to. Essentially, this is the same type of scenario, but with a little more support.
Many special education programs have social skill groups where students are taught, using real life scenarios and modeling by the adults how to read social cues. This includes verbal cues, such as tone of voice, sarcasm, idioms, and questioning. Social skill groups also focus on nonverbal cues, which are equally important, such as facial expressions and gestures. Also, social skill groups are not only for children with autism and other special needs, but also for other children that just need a boost in this area of life.
Perhaps you belong to a place or worship, scouts, or other organization that meets regularly. Some local libraries offer fun workshops on things like Legos, crafts, and board games. This may be ideal for your child, especially if the group is not too large, and your child may have that one person to connect with each week or two (whenever the events occur). It certainly wouldn’t hurt to check around and see if your community offers activities like this, and if they spark an interest in your child.
School is the one place where children of the same ages spend time together. However, children with autism may feel isolated because of the lack of social skills and just not “fitting in”. If the teacher can help with interactions, the classroom can still be a place where meaningful friendships can be made. As a parent, you can talk with the teacher and see if there is one student in the classroom that seems like he would be a good fit for your child, and perhaps let the teacher take it from there, especially during partner activities, lunch, and recess.
There are other ways you can help your loved one with autism have that companion to talk with and hang out with. Tyler’s video discusses a few other ways that may be beneficial to your child, as well as his experience with ways that just didn’t seem to work out. Check out his insightful video about his experiences with friends and companions!
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