Autism Spectrum Disorder is a communication and social disorder. As a mom and caregiver, I devote a significant amount of time fostering, teaching, and encouraging social interaction.
I believe a lack of autism awareness and understanding has led to a huge misconception that individuals with autism don’t want to socialize and prefer solitary activity. Being fearful or lacking the skills doesn’t equate to not having the desire. This is why social skills work is so vital to increase independence, confidence, and happiness for individuals with autism.
This article from Autism Parenting Magazine clearly and easily describes the struggles autistic children face and strategies to work on social skills in multiple environments. I found it helpful to add to my list of strategies.
After three years of consistent play dates with peers using prompting and modeling, my young child asks to see friends every day and is now able to initiate play. Friends also ask to see him. I clearly see this social piece in his life as being integral to his happiness and independence. I know it’s not always easy for him but I see the progress that’s been made and continues to be made by consistency and working with professionals. This includes social skills with the school psychologist, clinical psychologist, speech therapist, and special education staff. Play dates multiple times a week have also been key. You can see our previous post regarding Care Team Communication here: http://blog.asd.ai/autism-and-team-communication/
I speak to other parents of young children who tell me that their child has never had a play date or friends. They are upset and concerned and I encourage them to make it a priority and offer to set up a playdate. My strategy is to plan ahead to have these opportunities in place. It involves reaching out to other parents and developing the relationships.
This isn’t always an easy task given schedules and lack of willingness but you will find someone who has the same goals for their child. Joining support groups and local online groups can also help facilitate social opportunities for your child. Not only do the kids have the opportunity to practice social skills but caregivers receive support from one another. We exchange idea, struggles, strategies and develop friendships along the way.