How to Improve Your asd Child’s Chances of Finding and Keeping Friends

"My child is so desperate to find just one close friend. It breaks my heart when he tries so hard to make friends but eventually gets rejected. How do you teach friendship skills? How can I help?!"

For most children with ASD [High Functioning Autism], the most important part of a treatment strategy involves the development of communication and social competence.

This emphasis doesn’t reflect a societal pressure for conformity or an attempt to stifle individuality and uniqueness. Rather, it reflects the clinical fact that most children with ASD are not loners by choice, and that there is a tendency (as these young people develop towards adolescence) for despondency, negativism, and depression as a result of the child's increasing awareness of personal inadequacy in social situations and repeated experiences of failure to make and/or maintain relationships.

The typical limitations of insight and self-reflection experienced by children with ASD often preclude spontaneous self-adjustment to social and interpersonal demands. The practice of communication and social skills doesn’t imply the eventual acquisition of communicative or social spontaneity and naturalness; however; it does better prepare the child to cope with social and interpersonal expectations, thus enhancing their attractiveness as conversational partners or as potential friends.

The following are suggestions intended to foster relevant skills in this crucial area:

1. The child with ASD should be taught to monitor her or his own speech style in terms of:
  • adjusting depending on proximity to the listener
  • background noise
  • context and social situation
  • naturalness
  • number of people
  • rhythm
  • volume

2. The child should be helped to recognize and use a range of different means to disagree, discuss, interact, mediate, negotiate, and persuade through verbal means. In terms of formal properties of language, the child may benefit from help in thinking about idiomatic language that can only be understood in its own right, and practice in identifying them in both text and conversation.

It’s also important to help the child to develop the ability to anticipate multiple outcomes, to explain motivation, to make inferences, and to predict in order to increase the flexibility with which he or she thinks about - and uses language with - other people.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

3. The effort to develop the child's skills with peers in terms of managing social situations should be a priority. This should include:
  • ending topics appropriately
  • feeling comfortable with a range of topics that are typically discussed by same-age peers
  • shifting topics
  • the ability to expand and elaborate on a range of different topics initiated by others
  • topic management

4. Explicit verbal instructions on how to interpret other people's social behavior should be taught and exercised in a rote fashion. Facial and hand gestures, gaze, non-literal communications (e.g., sarcasm, metaphor, humor, figurative language and irony), the meaning of eye contact, tone of voice, and various inflections should all be taught in a fashion not unlike the teaching of a foreign language (i.e., all elements should be made verbally explicit and repeatedly drilled).

5. The same principles as described in #4 should guide the training of the child's expressive skills:
  • Self-monitoring techniques (e.g., practicing in front of a mirror, listening to the recorded speech, watching a video recorded behavior, etc.) should all be incorporated in this program.
  • Social situations contrived in the therapeutic setting that usually require reliance on visual-receptive and other nonverbal skills for interpretation should be used. Also, strategies for deciphering the most salient nonverbal dimensions inherent in these situations should be offered.
  • Encounters with unfamiliar people (e.g., making acquaintances) should be rehearsed until the child is made aware of the impact of her or his behavior on other people's reactions to her or him. 
  • Concrete situations should be exercised in a therapeutic setting and gradually implemented in naturally occurring situations.

As a final note, all those in close contact with the ASD child should be made aware of the program so that consistency, monitoring and contingent reinforcement are maximized.

Simple Ways To Teach Social Skills to Your Child 

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


•    Anonymous said... I have a 16 yr old son with aspergers. He has really come out of his shell this year. I attribute it a lot to the fact that we have talked alot about the positive aspects of aspergers, showing him all the greatly successful people with aspergers and we also got him a book for teens written by a women who has it. If you ever want to talk I'd be happy to share with you what has worked for us
•    Anonymous said... My son has aspergers and I have had such a hard time finding a therapist who has made a connection with him to help in any real way if you have any suggestions would love input.
•    Anonymous said... My son is almost 13 & we could use it here too!!!
•    Anonymous said... Our son has recently been diagnosed with HFA and this is exactly the sort of training he needs but have no idea where to turn to get him it. We try at home but it's difficult as he feels it more as a criticism of his current lack of skills rather than we're trying to help. I'm sure professional help would be so much better. As I say, I just don't know where to turn to access such support?
•    Anonymous said... would love to hear what's worked for your family! I have 14yr old boy in denial so can't mention it without him getting very defensive. He shows all the traits mentioned in the post! I have bought an ebook for teenage AS and I'm waiting for the next melt down. I will then open the bedroom door, throw it in, and take cover!!

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