Unique social approaches to therapy for children with autism can help them increase their skills at their own pace.
Social interactions can be a major barrier to success for children with autism, depending on where they are on the spectrum. But with the right support and validation, communication problems are not insurmountable. By adopting the right methods, parents and therapists can promote socialization in children with autism giving them the tools to succeed in their school lives, work lives, and home lives.
Habilitative therapy programs encourage socialization using community-based methods, but there are other ways to help your child enhance their skills outside of treatment.
1. Purchasing a Pet
Recent research indicates that children with autism who have pets develop social skills more easily. In particular, they are better at introducing themselves, answering questions, and asking others for information. Pets provide an opportunity for children to form emotional bonds and respond to others’ emotions. They are also a valuable talking point, giving children stories to share during interactions with their peers.
2. Tossing a Bean Bag
Sometimes the simplest of games can encourage the most important behaviors. Bean bag tosses are particularly effective at promoting socialization in children with autism. This is because they provide clear reinforcement of nuanced communication: children ask, usually through non-verbal cues, for the bean bag and are rewarded by having it tossed their way.
3. Compiling a Video Clip
Video modeling involves showing children clips of desirable behaviors. Studies show that children with autism who watch these videos have an easier time imitating the behaviors depicted and applying them to new circumstances. They also tend to remember the videos long after watching them. This reinforces social skills as the children learn to mimic the behaviors.
4. Introducing Improv
Acting exercises, particularly improvisational theater activities, give children with autism a low-risk opportunity to practice social interactions with others. Through the theater, you can simulate a wide range of real-life scenarios in which children with autism might have trouble expressing themselves or interacting with others. With positive reinforcement from you and their peers, children will gradually learn how to anticipate and react correctly to a variety of emotions.
5. Taking Advantage of Technology
Mobile communication technologies offer new opportunities for children with autism to practice speech. Even if the child has good hearing, vision, and motor skills, autism makes learning to speak difficult. With tablet or smartphone apps, however, children can compensate for these difficulties. Many devices have programs that convert text to sound or utilize other symbols to communicate. Patients with autism can use these programs to practice verbal communication and other skills in a safe, stress-free environment.
6. Letting Them Lead
Children with autism need to learn how to interact with their peers in order to develop social skills, but too much interaction in an unfamiliar environment can be overstimulating. To promote socialization in children with autism, organize games and group activities in which the child has a chance to lead. By placing them in charge of activities, they can judge their own limits, stop when they exceed those limits, and gradually learn to interact effectively.
7. Reinforcing Results
Whether they are interacting with you, their peers, their pets, or anyone else, if your child shows signs of improved behavior, validate those behaviors. Reinforcement can be as simple as praising them, though you may want to provide prizes for good behaviors demonstrated under particularly difficult circumstances. Ideally, those prizes should be clearly connected to the behavior.
If your child has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, contact Integrity, Inc. to learn more about our community-based habilitative programming at 501-406-0442. Let us know if you try incorporating these activities into your child’s routine and how their social skills improve.
Image by Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net