In this article, I am going to introduce some strategies you can use to help your child with Asperger’s expand his/her social and emotional intelligence.
Teaching autistic children is not hard: just different.
These children are already gifted with a lot of intelligence. You can frame these activities to them as a way of learning ‘people smarts’ to balance out their ‘book smarts.’ This article will cover children from the ages of 6 to 13 years old. Prior to age 6, it is helpful to start pre-school children off with video clips of the child’s everyday social experiences. Film the child playing with his or her peers in the sandpit, or involved in games of chasing, or hide and seek. You can then pause the video clip at different times to discuss particular cues and responses.
Social Skills Teaching Strategies for Children With Autism: Ages 6-9 years old:
At these ages, typical children start to recognize that they need a friend to play games with. They become more aware of the thoughts and feelings of those other children, and how their actions or comments can hurt or help their friends. Helping, a healthy give and take, is the hallmark of this stage of development.
Carol Gray has developed this strategy to help children understand the cues and responses for specific social situations. It’s often difficult for the child with Aspergers to understand the codes and rules of social conduct.
Here are some steps to keep in mind when writing a social story for your child with Aspergers:
- Use positive language and a constructive approach.
- Use suggestions of what to do and not what not to do.
- Use descriptive sentences that provide factual information or statements. However, also use perspective sentences that help the child understand the characters’ thoughts, emotions, beliefs, opinions, motivation, and knowledge.
- Use cooperative sentences to identify people who can help the student.
- Use directive sentences to suggest a response or choice of responses in a specific situation.
- Affirmative sentences explain a commonly shared value/opinion–reasons why different norms of conduct have been established, and why there is the expectation of conformity.
- Control sentences are written by the child to find personal strategies to help him/her find what to do.
Once the social story is written (give it a title that fits), the child will need opportunities to rehearse and practice new social understanding in real-life situations. Ask an older, sensitive child to help your child practice these skills. This social buddy’s modeling skills will have a powerful and positive effect for your child.
Social Skills Teaching Strategies for Children With Autism: Ages 9 to 13 years old
At these ages, friends tend to be chosen because of shared interests, personalities, values, and ideas. There tends to be a gravitation toward the peer group, and acceptance by that group is very important for those children. Friends support each other in terms of their emotions, both positive and negative.
- Social Engineering. Effectively this means that you, as the adult, need to be involved in initiating and coordinating a group outing for your child. Identify a prospective friend and arrange a family outing or activity at home that involves the prospective friend, with some careful monitoring and guidance so that the time is enjoyable both for your child and the child. You can also use methods from the social stories described above to help your child talk about how the activity went, and to teach him/her social nuances that s/he needs to learn.
- Encouraging a Buddy: Similar to a social buddy, there are many children who have a natural rapport with your Aspergers child. These social buddies can be taught about what Aspergers is, and can help give advice to your child, as well as show them how to manage their emotions. Talk to the school social worker and your child’s home room teacher for help with identifying possible social buddies for your child.
- Drama Classes. Enrolling the child with Aspergers in a speech or drama class can be a very helpful way for your child to learn and practice conversational scripts, self-disclosure, body language, facial expression, and tone of voice for particular situations.
I hope you have found this partial list of social skills teaching strategies for children with autism helpful. I urge you to read more information by Carol Gray to learn more about how to construct social stories. Also, remember that your child is very resilient: as you encourage him/her to expand his social abilities, you will be surprised at how far s/he will go!
photo credit: joanneQEscober
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