Search and Filters
Search and Filters
Friendships can have a major impact on wellbeing and personal growth, yet building new relationships can be anxiety provoking for adults and children alike. So, imagine how hard it can be for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), who may struggle to perceive social cues and respond in conventionally acceptable ways. As a result, they may have few friends and shy away from conversations or other interactions. Children with ASD need opportunities to build meaningful relationships and have many wonderful qualities to offer others. Using various strategies to help children with ASD build supportive friendships can help them live happier lives and realize their potential. Below are some approaches to consider and build upon:
1. Assess the needs of the child. While children may not have certain social skills, it is also possible that they have skills that they are not performing for various possible reasons. Discerning between skills deficits and performance deficits is crucial in determining the most suitable intervention. Skills deficits are often mistakenly interpreted as performance deficits, causing adults to unfairly blame children for refusing or lacking the motivation to perform a behavior when they actually need to develop their skills. A good way to discern between skills deficits and performance deficits is to consider whether the child can perform a task with multiple people across multiple settings. If the child is only able to initiate conversations with a parent, for example, the child may need to learn how to apply the skill across other contexts.
2. Consider intervention strategies to use. Depending on the needs of the child, you may want to use accommodation or assimilation strategies, or a combination of both. Accommodation refers to modifying the physical or social environment of the child to promote positive social interactions. Some examples include autism awareness training for classmates and signing up for group activities. Assimilation refers to facilitating skills development to help the child become more successful in social interactions. Focusing on one approach and not the other can set children up for failure. For example, providing children with ample opportunities to interact with others without helping them develop skills needed for successful interactions can lead to frustrating experiences. Likewise, talking to children about quality friendships without providing them with opportunities to develop them can be unproductive. The remainder of the article offers strategies of both types that you can use.
3. Accommodation Strategies
4. Assimilation Strategies
5. Assess and modify approaches for long term success. Social skills can take a long time to develop so it is important to stay patient and plan for the future. Consider a timeline for the skills the child can realistically develop over time. Social skills also require extensive practice so instruction should occur in as many environments the child enters as possible. It is also important to consider which approaches are more or less effective and adapt as necessary. By periodically collecting data, you can track the child’s progress and make informed decisions moving forward.
Grace Chen is currently pursuing an Ed.M. in Arts in Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has been a teaching artist, curriculum developer, and research assistant focusing on innovative evaluations in out-of-school time programs. She hopes to develop resonant and empowering art programs by partnering with youth in educational research and practice.