Social skills are an important part of growing up. They help build confidence, self-esteem and independence. If your child has autism, their social skills can also be critical in helping them to develop friendships and form attachments with others. Kids with autism spectrum disorders often have trouble understanding what others want from them. For example, they might struggle to understand why being asked to play a game is any different from asking them to do something else instead. In addition, they might find it difficult to read facial expressions or tone of voice clues people use to show whether they like something or not. As a result, autistic children may struggle when it comes together in attempts to make new friends and get along with the people around them. To overcome this challenge, you need to consider the many ways that you can boost your child's social skills. You can also help them learn how to communicate more effectively with others so that they feel more confident when trying new activities or making new friends outside the house as well. Here are some strategies you should explore if you want to help your child and your family with autism.
Start a conversation with your child.
When your child is at school, it can be helpful for them to make friends with new kids. You can help them feel more comfortable by starting a conversation with them. Ask them about their interests in class, who they know there, what they like to do outside of school and so on. If your child knows the other students in their class already, encourage your child to talk to the new kids that come into the classroom. They will likely have questions about how to get along or if they are doing any activities after school too. Talk to your child about what these new kids like and see if anything interests them too.
Teach your child body language.
A good way to help your child with autism understand body language is to teach them the basics of how people communicate. For example, teaching your child how to read facial expressions and tone of voice clues is a good place to start. There are also many programs that can be used for this purpose. Some examples include: -The Misfit Interactions app -The Social Skills Club -The Autism Social stories program
Help your child practice their skills.
The first step to helping your child build better social skills in autism is to help them practice their existing skills. For example, if your child is having trouble understanding other people's verbal cues, you can help them try to identify their tone of voice. If they're struggling with a certain skill that you want them to improve on, like eye contact or making friends, you should help them practice that skill before the next opportunity arises.
Use visual supports when speaking with your child.
One of the best ways you can help your child learn to better understand social cues and improve their social skills is by using visual supports. For example, if your child has trouble understanding tone of voice, use pictures or written words instead of talking about how someone is feeling. If your child has a hard time getting what you are trying to say, show them a visual representation. Another great way to help your child improve their social skills is by giving them opportunities to practice what they have learned in real-life situations. By giving them opportunities to test out new strategies and practice in different situations, they will be able to see how things go when they try these strategies on their own.
Be reciprocal in interactions with your child.
Be reciprocal in interactions with your child and other people. For example, when you're asking your child to do something, explain why it's important for them to do that task as well. This might mean explaining things like the importance of following directions or saying please and thank you.
Don't let social interactions become routine.
It can be easy to see social interactions as a routine or chore that children with autism need to complete on a daily basis. But, the key to boosting your child's social skills is encouraging them to think about those interactions in a new way. For example, you could encourage them to try different approaches to their conversations with others, such as asking questions instead of commenting out loud or trying out different facial expressions and body language so they feel more comfortable in their interactions.
Set up a healthy lifestyle
It's not just athletes, high level executives and other high performers that benefit from a healthy lifestyle of exercise and good food. We all benefit from improving our health. It's the same for people with autism. Families of children with autism should consider some modification to their diet and lifestyle. Not just to help their family members with autism, but to help themselves. Diets low in inflammatory foods and high in nutrients have helped people in many areas of life, from mental health to a general feeling of well-being.
For more insights into adding lifestyle changes to your strategy, I find Natural Autism Support covers this area quite well. The blog post about healing autism is a good place to start.
Get help with an Autism Coach
Children with autism spectrum disorder aren't the only ones in the family that need some support. Entering the world of autism has its challenges for the whole family. Often parents' heads are spinning with stress and overwhelm when their child has a developmental disorder. They will follow the advice given by the autism professional that they are referred to. These professionals are experts in their field, but they are there to help you with your overall plan and strategy.
Then who is responsible for the strategy? It's the parents ultimately responsible for taking in the information, sifting through everything, exploring additional options and coming up with a plan. Most of the time, parents enter the world of autism with little knowledge and experience in the subject. They will become quite experienced over time, but it won't start that way. Fumbling your way through may not always be the best way to go. It can also be quite daunting having the weight of responsibility of helping your child live a happy and fulfilling life where they can grow into an independent autistic adult.
That's where an autism coach can help. Different coaches have different strengths. Often they are parents that have raised children with autism. They can empathise with you, be a sounding board and help you make better decisions that save you money and help your child more effectively. I like the autism coaching blog post from Natural Autism Support which goes into more details.
Starting your child on a path to social success can be difficult, but it's important to remember that the process takes time. With patience and consistency, you should be able to see progress. Remember to bring joy into your own life during your autism journey. It will rub off on your whole family.
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