Social Skills: Tips from Our Community

My son plays social therapy games at a local social skill group where they let him practice with his peers. He has a chance to ask "why" certain social skills are important in a safe and supportive space. It has taken some time but he is catching on and learning more with each group interaction! 

My son with autism is 25, so I have tried many things. What works best is for me to consistently explain, in detail, what a glance, smile, handshake, sigh, and every social skill that we come in contact with can mean. I found that he slowly began to ask, “Why?”  At age 17 he asked me if he could stay with his friends at a get-together. He doesn’t always participate, but he certainly follows the conversations and he definitely has an opinion on everyone’s interactions. Lots of explaining, over and over. Patience is a must!

I try to put my daughter in social situations as often as possible. When she was first diagnosed I took her to the park and assisted her with cooperative play. Her way of introducing herself was to grab someone else’s toy or growl in their face, like a lion, and run away. I interrupted and intervened constantly and taught her by modeling the appropriate behavior. 

I always make my son pay and talk to the cashier. It is usually a forced conversation for him but he has a chance to talk to a new person almost every day. 

I have a six-year-old son and what really works with him is role play. He can intellectually tell you what he's supposed to do in a situation, but can't really implement it until he "rehearses" it. He also belongs to cub scouts, which has really boosted his social confidence. He used to belong to a soccer team, but has challenges with his coordination and used to get down on himself when he didn't score goals. Cub Scouts really focuses on the positive and he has a lot in common with the other boys.

Stay consistent. Take them into a social situation everyday, maybe it has to be the same time of day each day, but then gradually make small changes (bigger social group, different time, longer, etc...) Children with autism sometimes need to be 'stretched' out of their comfort zone slowly.

Start out very small. I would take my boys into Wal-Mart with the greeter. I would have them say “Hello, how are you?” and make eye contact. Restaurants are good also, giving them practice talking back and forth with a waiter or waitress. Church has been a wonderful social environment for them as well. I have found my church family more forgiving and they have helped a great deal with social skills and situations--if a child feels comfortable and protected, the social skills become easier.

I expose my six-year-old son, who has Asperger's, to as many children as possible. We go to the park EVERY day the weather permits. I've found daily exposure REALLY helps! I suppose it gives you, the parent, and a way to navigate through social situations with your child.