An important part of making friends comes from having age-appropriate social skills, which many children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) find challenging. Imagine trying to make friends when you have trouble reading social cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tones of voice. This is why more than 50% of children diagnosed with ASD don’t have many friends and why most children like this need to participate in a social skills training program.
Children diagnosed with ASD benefit from having friends in their peer groups. Searching for a social skills training program for autism in California? Call Opya at (650) 931-6300 or reach out to our team online.
What Can Parents Do To Help Children With Autism Make Friends?
You can take several steps to support your child diagnosed with ASD in making new friends, such as the following:
- Help your child understand what a friend is–your child needs to know what a friend is before she can make one or becomes part of some friend groups for autism. Ask them questions like, “Do you like being around children who call you names?” and “Do you like being around children who say nice things to you?” Understanding abstract concepts can be challenging for young children, especially those with an ASD diagnosis.
- Practice and repetition–children diagnosed with autism need more time and repetition to learn a new skill than others. Practicing with your child can help them feel more comfortable with the process and give them the confidence to problem-solve any “bumps” before they encounter them in the outside world.
- Surround your child with peers who share interests–common interests are important factors in developing and maintaining friendships. For example, if your child with ASD loves art, enroll them in an art class. Make sure these groups have similar-aged peers, so age-appropriate behaviors surround them.
- Use visual models–children diagnosed with autism often learn better when they can see or read what they’re supposed to do. Writing a script or drawing out the flow of a conversation can help your child understand the basics of maintaining a conversation with a friend.
How Does a Social Skills Training Program Help Children Develop Friend Groups for Autism?
It may be difficult to figure out how to help children with autism make friends without professional help, which makes a social skills training program for autism ideal.
But what are social skills, in the first place? Social skills are the abilities, customs, and rules that guide someone’s interactions with others and the world. People tend to pick up social skills like they learn language skills; easily and naturally. Over time, a person builds a social map that can guide them in choosing how to act in social situations. For most children diagnosed with ASD, picking up social skills doesn’t come easily or naturally. It can be harder for them to learn and build these social skills, and they may not be able to put together a social made to guide them in further social interactions.
Social skills training programs for autism can involve the following:
- Explicit instruction and teachable moments with realistic practice settings
- Focus on attention and timing
- Learning behaviors that predict important social outcomes, like friendship
- Support for enhancing communication and sensory integration
- Ways to build up cognitive and language skills
When Should You Consider a Social Skills Training Program for Autism?
Many children diagnosed with ASD need specific support to learn about social skills and how to engage with family members, friends, and others. While many children like this are often motivated to have meaningful interactions with others, some may need systematic training to have successful social outcomes.
Many studies show that developing social skills in children diagnosed with autism can increase appropriate peer interactions, improve academic performance, and reduce problem behavior. If this sounds like something you’d like to see in your child, you should ask your child’s treatment team about social skill training programs. Also, many other recommended autism treatment programs, such as speech and language therapy or occupational therapy, already have social skills training built into them.
Ready To Learn More About Opya’s Social Skills Training Program for Autism?
If you’re looking for a social skills training program for autism in California, call Opya at (650) 931-6300 today. You can also reach out to our team online.