How can parents help their children with Aspergers and autism spectrum navigate the social jungle at school?
I’m grateful to Connie Hammer, a licensed clinical social worker and parenting coach, for her permission to share one of her articles on this very subject.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome at the beginning of any school year is surviving the social grouping process that happens within a classroom. Whether we like it or not there is a natural selection process that occurs within every group of human beings who gather for a certain purpose, young and old, and for children on the autism spectrum this can be extremely challenging. In my twenty years experience as a school social worker in a K-8 school I had the opportunity to witness how groups of students evolve – how roles are assigned and who yields most of the power to keep things that way.
Finding your way through this social muddle can be stressful for almost any student but for children who are new or socially challenged this can be an extremely anxiety provoking situation. Many young children wade through this selection process with very little awareness yet others are consciously struggling to “fit in”. One mom of a seven-year-old autistic child shared that she was thankful her child was unaware of “fitting in” or being accepted and she wondered if her daughter’s tendency to withdraw into herself and block out the outside world might be a gift. This mom had witnessed a classmate make an effort to befriend another only to be crudely rebuffed and told to get lost.
This social jungle can be cruel and difficult to deal with for many students and their parents as well. Making and keeping friends is an important component in creating a positive school experience for children and watching your child struggle to “fit in” can be heart wrenching and difficult to accept. But feeling helpless as a parent does not have to be the norm for there are many things a parent can do to help their child maneuver through this social maze.
Here are a few ideas for parents of children on the autism spectrum to help their child enter the social scene at school.
- Provide ample opportunities for your child to engage socially. Invite old classmates over or new ones that may have moved into the school system so your child can get to know them better.
- Practice social graces with your child. You will help your child immensely if you rehearse back to school conversation starters for them to use with their friends.
- Ask “what if “ questions whenever the opportunity arises. While watching television or movies with your child, stopping the action and inquiring what they might do in a similar situation can push them to think socially.
For more information and other strategies that will reduce anxieties and make school life easier for your special needs child, you may want to check out my back to school program, 3 Secrets for a Smooth Sail Back to School.
Imagine less worries and concerns as a parent with a child on the Autism spectrum… and more happiness and joyful times as a family. That’s what you get when you have the support of Connie Hammer, expert parent educator and coach. For more than twenty years, this licensed social worker has worked with families to create opportunities that open possibilities for more love, more fun and more contentment, regardless of disability. To find out how she can help you take your parenting to the next level, visit her on Facebook.
Please let me know what I can do for you.
P.S. I am including some other helpful resources and links regarding parenting children with autism below:
Parenting A Child With Autism, an article from WebMd
Here’s a helpful book on the subject of parenting a child with autism.
A Will of His Own: Reflections on Parenting a Child with Autism