Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions, which most often include difficulties with social interactions and communication (both verbal and non-verbal) and restricted and repetitive behaviors. Children with autism can struggle with social interactions and communication for their entire lives, thus placing a heavy burden on their parents.
This article will discuss four methods by which parents can help children with autism improve their social communication skills.
1. Read Social Stories to Your Child
The first way you can help is to read social stories with your autistic child. Social stories are so fantastic and as this ultimate guide explains, these stories teach children with autism how to behave in social situations. Social stories do this by providing details about the circumstance and expected outcomes of a social situation, and point out what actions or behavior are permissible in such social situations.
All of these things are explained in a very easy-to-understand manner. This can help autistic children understand different social situations and pick up on cues they normally neglect due to autism.
For example, to help autistic children make friends, a social story will explain to them that when they want to play with other children, they have to come up to them and ask, “Do you want to play with me?” If the other children say yes, then the child can play with them and have fun.
If the other children say no, the social story will tell the autistic children that everything is okay and the autistic children can play with other children. While this method can be somewhat limited by the availability of materials, it is relatively easy to come up with social stories of your own to share with your child. In addition, reading stories with your children can boost their imagination and creativity.
2. Have Fun with Role-Playing
Role-playing with your autistic children can help them learn and practice social skills. Situations for role-playing can be anything that you can think of, such as when other children come to your house, when your child goes to a big party, and when there is only one piece of cake left over for two people. From there, you can role-play different solutions to the problems, such as both people sharing the cake or asking others to let you have the cake. Role-playing is not only helpful, but it is also a fun exercise for you to bond with your child and understand them better.
3. Try Video-Modeling
Showing autistic children videos of social skills you want to teach is a very effective method to improve their understanding. For example, you can teach them to have a conversation with other people by showing two people having a conversation, and explaining to them the proper etiquette of taking turns. You can pause the video at any time and point out to your children whose turn it is to speak, like “his turn” or “her turn”.
After watching the video, you can switch back to role-playing by recreating the social situation in the video, only this time use phrases such as “my turn” and “your turn”. Similarly to social stories, this method is somewhat limited by the availability of materials, but it has several advantages such as the ability to pause and rewind when necessary, and the ability to emulate a real-world social situation using pictures and sound.
4. Understand Common Non-Verbal Clues
Learning gestures and understanding common non-verbal clues is another step towards helping your child with social communication skills. Most communication is non-verbal, so reading social cues is important to understand vital parts of communication, such as context and attitude. However, this can be particularly challenging for autistic children because autistic children tend to develop their own code of non-verbal communication, which is usually different from common non-verbal communication.
This difference in turn prevents autistic children from understanding the gestures, facial expressions, and body language of others. Consequently, parents should learn their children’s language, and having done so, parents can gradually introduce common non-verbal communication to their children and help them learn to understand others.
Improving social communication skills for children with autism is not an easy task but it can be extremely rewarding. Helping children with autism requires consistent effort and dedication. Social skills are of even greater importance to an autistic child, as they help the child know how to act in different social situations, make friends, learn from others, develop hobbies and live a happy life.
By following the above methods, parents will be able to help their autistic child improve their social skills, which are crucial for them overcoming problems caused by their autism.