How to Help Your Child with Autism Navigate Social & Emotional Challenges
Helping Your Child With Autism Develop Social Skills
Children with autism can find it difficult to repeat social skills and behaviors they have learned from one setting to the next. Your child may find it a simple task to share their pencils at home, but very difficult when they are at school with their classmates. The many social skills we use throughout our day-to-day life can be inherently harder for children with autism, which can lead to frustration and emotional challenges.
There are many skills and lessons you can engage in with your child to give them all the tools to thrive in any situation they are faced with. An autism services center can help struggling parents looking to find new ways to give their children the best possible quality of life. In this article, we are going to be guiding you through some key areas that can help develop your child’s social skills.
What are social skills & why are they so important?
Social skills for children come in lots of different forms. They include:
- Play skills like learning to take turns in games or sharing toys
- Conversation skills, such as choosing what to talk about or what body language to use
- Emotional skills to manage emotions and understand how others feel
- Problem-solving skills such as dealing with conflict or making decisions in social situations.
Social skills can help all children in different social situations know how to act. These situations could be conversing with a grandparent or playing with friends at school, for example.
Children can develop social skills by making friends, learning from others, and engaging in hobbies and interests. As well as helping your child feel like he or she belongs, these skills can also help build family relationships and develop emotional intelligence. The development of good social skills is also important for the mental well-being and general quality of life of your child.
Practice play can be a great way to help children with autism. Acting out scenes using toys can aid with social interaction. An example of this kind of practice play could be hugging a teddy bear, feeding it, putting it to bed, or having a tea party with several teddy bears. Creating a narrative with the bears is also a valuable tool to add more stimulating layers.
Younger children may prefer more kinetic games with movement, such as red light, green light; tag; or hide-and-seek. Other stimulating activities, such as bouncing a ball between you and your child, are an excellent way to prompt children to take turns and develop qualities such as sharing and patience.
Praising your child through these activities adds a positive association when completing particular activities. You could say, “your turn” and “my turn” When your child allows you to take a turn or follows an instruction. You could also say something like, “Good job taking turns,” or “Well done for throwing the ball back to me.”
Practicing these skills in different play situations will give your child valuable lessons and the opportunity to broaden their skill set. There are many ways you can use practice play in your day-to-day life, making things much more fun and stimulating for your child.
Visual aids can help your child with autism to learn new skills and develop existing social ones that they have used in the past. Depending on the level of your child’s learning needs, visual support could be in the form of pictures, checklists, words, or prompt cards. You could use pictures or words to prompt different conversation topics, such as an image of a dog reminding your child to talk to their grandparents about their dog.
Pictures can also be used with your child to learn how to play certain games. A picture could represent the different processes that occur in a restaurant, such as taking the order, cooking the food, serving the food, clearing the table, and paying the bill.
Whenever you see your child interacting with others in a positive way, you should always give them encouragement and praise. If you see your child sharing a toy with another child, encourage this behavior with phrases such as, “Wow! That’s so friendly. You shared your toys with your friend and waited for your turn.”
Activities such as role-play can be a key aid in helping build social skills. Role-playing before playdates and other social events will show your child that the new experience isn’t a daunting prospect. You and your child could play a role in which your child suggests they want to interact with another child. You could then play the games that children may play with one another. Practice talking about things such as what you have been watching on the television or what activities you got up to over the weekend.
For children who are a little older, try to set up a situation that involves a social problem, such as only having one slice of cake left but there being two people. The role-play in this situation could be both of them sharing one piece of cake. Other social problems could be not having a turn on a games console, not enjoying the food that has been cooked for dinner or losing a sibling’s toy.