High-Functioning Autistic Children and Difficulty with Reciprocal Social Interactions

Many kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s have an inability - or a lack of desire - to interact with their friends and classmates. Moms and dads are often concerned with their youngster’s interactions with others and the quality of those interactions.

It is very important to observe how your child interacts with same-age peers. Below are a few of the reasons a youngster with HFA has difficulty finding and keeping friends. 

The child:

1.  Compromises interactions by rigidity, inability to shift attention or “go with the flow,” being rule bound, and needs to control the play/activity

2.  Displays a lack of desire to interact

3.  Displays a limited awareness of current topics, activities, songs, etc.

4.  Displays a limited awareness of the emotions of others and/or how to respond to them, for example, does not:
  • ask for help from others
  • know how to respond when help is given
  • know how to respond to compliments
  • realize the importance of apologizing
  • realize something he says or does can hurt the feelings of another
  • differentiate internal thoughts from external thoughts
  • respond to the emotions another is displaying (missed cues)

5.  Displays narrow play and activity choices (note: best observed during unstructured play/leisure activities: look for rigidity/patterns/repetitive choices, inability to accept novelty)
 
==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

6.  Does not care about her inability to interact with others because she has no interest in doing so. She prefers solitary activities and does not have the need to interact with others, or she is socially indifferent and can take it or leave it with regard to interacting with others.

7.  Engages in unusual behaviors or activities (e.g., selects play or activity choices of a younger child, seems unaware of the unwritten social rules among peers, acts like an imaginary character, uses an unusual voice — any behaviors that call attention to the child or are viewed as unusual by peers).

8.  Initiates play interaction by taking a toy or starting to engage in an ongoing activity without gaining verbal agreement from the other players, will ignore a negative response from others when asking to join in, will abruptly leave a play interaction.

9.  Spends all free time completely consumed by areas of special interest. Her activities are so rule bound, it would be almost impossible for a peer to join in correctly. When asked about preferred friends, the child is unable to name any or names those who are really not friends (e.g., family members, teachers).

10.  Is unable to select activities that are of interest to others (unaware or unconcerned that others do not share the same interest or level of interest, unable to compromise).

11.  Lacks an understanding of game playing — unable to share, unable to follow the rules of turn taking, unable to follow game-playing rules (even those that may appear quite obvious), is rigid in game playing (may want to control the game or those playing and/or create her own set of rules), always needs to be first, unable to make appropriate comments while playing, and has difficulty with winning/losing.

12.  Lacks conversational language for a social purpose, does not know what to say — this could be no conversation, monopolizing the conversation, lack of ability to initiate conversation, obsessive conversation in one area, conversation not on topic or conversation that is not of interest to others.

13.  Lacks the ability to understand, attend to, maintain, or repair a conversational flow or exchange — this causes miscommunication and inappropriate responses (unable to use the back-and-forth aspect of communication).

14.  Observes or stays on the periphery of a group rather than joining in.

15.  Prefers structured over non-structured activities.

16. Sits apart from others, avoids situations where involvement with others is expected (e.g., playgrounds, birthday parties, being outside in general), and selects activities that are best completed alone (e.g., computer games, Game Boy, books, viewing TV/videos, collecting, keeping lists).

Resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:
 

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