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Common Social Deficits of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“Is it common for a child with high functioning autism to have difficulty interpreting the messages others give in conversations? Our son does not seem to understand the rules of social interactions. If he doesn’t understand what someone is saying or doing, he will always be unable to give the appropriate response.”

Yes, these issues are very common. This is why social-skills training in crucial for young people with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s. Skills that “typical” children gain naturally do not become so automatic for kids on the spectrum. Below are some of the socially-related deficits that are part of the disorder.

The child may:
  • “Tell” on peers, breaking the “code of silence” that exists (he will then be unaware why others
    are angry with him).
  • Avert eye contact, or keep it fleeting or limited.
  • Avoid observing personal space (is too close or too far).
  • Avoid turning to face the person he is talking to.
  • Be unable to use gestures or facial expressions to convey meaning when conversing.
  • Be unaware of unspoken or “hidden” rules.
  • Confront another person without changing his face or voice.
  • Engage in self-stimulatory or odd behaviors (e.g., rocking, tics, finger posturing, eye blinking, noises such as humming/clicking/talking to self).
  • Fail to assist someone with an obvious need for help (e.g., not holding a door for someone carrying many items or assisting someone who falls or drops their belongings).
  • Fail to gain another person's attention before conversing with them.
  • Have body posture that appears unusual.
  • Experience difficulty with feelings of empathy for others. 
  • Have interactions with others that remain on one level, with one message.
  • Have tics or facial grimaces.
  • Ignore an individual’s appearance of sadness, anger, boredom, etc.
  • Lack awareness if someone appears bored, upset, angry, scared, and so forth (therefore, he does not comment in a socially appropriate manner or respond by modifying the interaction).
  • Have little awareness of the facial expressions and body language of others, so these conversational cues are missed.
  • Lack facial expressions when communicating.
  • Laugh at something that is sad, or ask questions that are too personal.
  • Look to the left or right of the person he is talking to.
  • Make rude comments (e.g., tells someone they are fat, bald, old, have yellow teeth).
  • Respond with anger when he feels others are not following the rules.
  • Discipline others or reprimand them for their actions (e.g., acts like the teacher or parent with peers).
  • Smile when someone shares sad news.
  • Stare intensely at people or objects.
  • Talk on and on about a special interest while unaware that the other person is no longer paying attention, talk to someone who is obviously engaged in another activity, or talk to someone who isn’t even there.
  • Touch, hug, or kiss others without realizing that it is inappropriate.
  • Use facial expressions that do not match the emotion being expressed.
  • Use gestures, body language, or facial expressions infrequently or atypically when interacting with others.

Also, when questioned regarding what could be learned from another person's facial expression, he may say, “Nothing.” Faces do not provide him with information. Unable to read these “messages,” he is unable to respond to them.

For information on providing social-skills training, click on the link below…

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management
More resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

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

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