How Children With Autism Can Develop Friendships

I cannot believe I am saying this, but summer is almost over and school is about to begin! For parents of children with Autism, this can be a challenging time as you attempt to get your children ready for a new school year. I have found that one of the easiest ways to transition your child to a new school environment is by establishing relationships with kids who may be in their classroom.

As a parent, you may think that this is an enormous task, but here are some initial steps you can take right now to get your child on the road to finding friends.

Developing Friendships Can Be Hard. Take It One Step At A Time:

An important consideration for parents to have is that developing relationships with same-aged peers goes against the grain of every child with autism. This is because it hits on one of the most difficult skill areas for them: socialization.

Socialization skills or more simply put, how people be with one another, requires a high level of complex skills. This does not mean that this is an impossible barrier to overcome, it just means it will take longer to teach solid skills that can be used in real life situations over time. This is important because anything you teach your child should have the goal of being around into adulthood, and not just a band-aid for an issue. Having a band-aid for such an important skill will only mean bigger issues as they become older.

Going To Tackle Social Skills… Have Realistic Expectations and an unwavering Commitment to  Change

Before getting started, it will be important to be very clear about what your child’s skills are and what ground they need to cover. Parents cannot go in with the expectation that their child has lots to learn and expect results right away. Patience and consistency are keys in supporting your child through what could be the scariest skill acquisition yet.

Parents want to realistically assess their child’s biggest barriers through observation. We have some terrific tools for documenting through our membership program. Narrow in on the top three areas for skill building and then break them down into really tiny steps. The key is to develop a pattern of success for your child that will develop into more comfort into what could be a scary situation for them.

Consider How Your Child Learns

Parents should consider how their child learns when teaching social skills. They will want to use this method in teaching complicated skills because they know it is what their child responds to. Changing an already successful method of learning will be a social skill disaster that will take the parent much longer to correct.

If your child is a visual learner, use pictures or social stories to teach each of the steps you have lined up in Step 2. This is covered in detail in our membership series “How To Stop Meltdowns In Social Situations”. If your child is motivated by technology, there are some terrific apps and programs that build on social skills.

Identify Your Child’s Biggest Asset

Some kids like cars; others love animals.  What is the one things your child is crazy about? This should be an easy one to discover for any parent. It is probably the one thing that if you ever needed to take it away, a meltdown would ensue.

Your child’s biggest interest is their biggest strength and the method you will use to bring in other children into your child’s world. Once you have identified what that is, begin to observe other children in your neighborhood or in you circle of support. Are their children who are either the same age or older who have a similar interest? If there are, they will be the focus of your relationship building.