Parenting children with Aspergers Syndrome and high functioning autism spectrum conditions can seem so overwhelming at times. As parents, we can think that we need to spend thousands to get the best treatment possible. After exhausting our time, energy, and resources, we can then go to the other extreme of not intervening at all.
I’m grateful to my friend, Connie Hammer, who recently wrote an article full of practical tips for helping our children with Aspergers sydnrome.
Connie Hammer, MSW, consultant, parent educator and PCI certified parent coach, supports parents of young children recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder by uncovering abilities and changing possibilities. If you are looking for simple ways to fine-tune your parenting, get your FREE ecourse and weekly parenting tips on how to create the family life you desire and deserve, visithttp://www.parentcoachingforautism.com
Turning Common Interactions into Meaningful Social Skill Lessons for a Child with Autism
I love to tweet parenting tips and I love it even more when someone comments on them or asks for additional tips.
I received a request the other day from someone who wanted to know if I could expand upon the following tip I tweeted a few weeks ago – Have a child with autism who’s challenged socially? Try to make every social interaction with you a teaching/learning opportunity. I am excited to take this opportunity to share more detailed tips with you here on my blog about how parents can take an every day interaction and turn it into a helpful social skill lesson.
As parents we interact with our children numerous times during the day. Each interaction has a specific reason attached to it, helping a child dress, tucking them into bed, or reading them a story and some of the more simple encounters are almost done by default as if we are on automatic pilot. These can be anything from a greeting, asking them a question or giving them a direction that may be brief yet powerful. When you think of it, every contact we have with our children is a social one and as simple as it might be we can make it even more significant to our autistic child if we take 15-30 more seconds to describe what you are doing.
Autistic spectrum children are very concrete and literal and we should not assume that they are picking up everything we do via watching or observing us. We need to be more mindful and deliberate when it comes to parenting a child with autism because they do not always absorb things just by being exposed to them. Realistically, there is much that is happening that is not being noticed unless we specifically point it out.
The best strategy for turning a social encounter into a meaningful learning experience for your autistic child is to call attention to the manner in which you relate to them and why. This is a simple yet effective way to expand your autistic child’s social toolbox. Here are some tips on how to make each interaction you have with your child more meaningful and useful.
- Use the rewind button. After a typical social interaction you have with your child, rewind what you just did and replay it for them in slow motion. Ex. “Did you notice what I just did? I wanted to ask you a question so I made sure I was close to you instead of hollering from across the room.” Replay the scene using each approach and ask which one works best. For older children you can also get into a discussion of why that tactic was the better one to use.
- Pretend you need help. All children like being asked to share their opinion, it makes them feel important. When you have time to think ahead, try involving your child in a social skill decision. I want to ask your dad a question but he looks as if he is busy right now, what do you think I should do? Then present two plausible options, one more socially acceptable than the other and ask your child what do you think will happen if I use option A, then examine option B.
- Paint a picture of what you just did. Ex. “I wanted to make sure I had your attention so I leaned over and looked into your eyes.” Then follow up with a specific description of using that skill – “When you want to make sure someone is listening to you, it’s best to get in front of them and look at their eyes.” Add any details that you think your child will need – in front of means an arms length away, not right up in their face, etc.
- Point out your mistakes. Even as adults, not all of our interactions are successful but we often know where we went wrong. This is a great opportunity to share your experience with your child and prompt them to think about what you could have done differently. Do not let too much time go by after you pose the question or make them feel pressured by it, simply fill in the answer for them and briefly discuss it, if possible.
Remember, there is no such thing as too much repetition with a child on the autism spectrum. It is always a good idea to end each one of these possible scenarios with a specific description regarding the social skill you are trying to teach. Duplicate it as often as you think you need to in order for your child to grasp the skill. There is always ample opportunity to practice most of these skills because they occur over and over again in our daily activities. The added benefit is that we grow in awareness as to how we utilize our own social skills to communicate and get to practice them more consciously.