Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often face significant social struggles. They may struggle to communicate, understand social cues or even engage with others. This can make it challenging for them to develop meaningful connections with their peers and even their parents. However, there are several things that parents and educators can do to help children with ASD build positive social interactions.
- Develop social skills strategies
One of the most effective ways to help children with ASD improve their social skills is by developing social skills strategies that cater to their unique needs. Parents and educators can work together to create a social skills program, which targets specific goals such as eye contact or volume control. Such programs should be fun, age-appropriate and include different social scenarios that the child can practise in a safe and supportive environment.
- Encourage turn-taking and sharing
Children with ASD often struggle with turn-taking during conversations and play, as well as sharing. Parents and educators can encourage them to take turns during games or conversations by demonstrating the practice and guiding them through it. They can also ensure that students or siblings take turns to speak or play, as well as introduce the use of visual cues, such as a picture of a hand, to signal turn-taking.
- Co-teaching with neurotypical peers
Another way parents and educators can promote positive social interactions is by partnering children with ASD with neurotypical peers during co-teaching opportunities. Working together to solve problems or complete tasks can encourage communication and improve social interactions for both parties. In addition, peers who model appropriate social interaction can improve the children’s sociability, interest and engagement in social interactions.
- Provide opportunities for socialization
Parents and educators should also provide ample opportunities for socialization. These can be structured, such as playdates or social groups, or unstructured, such as recess or lunchtime. Such opportunities should create room for interaction, communication and opportunities to share their interests or play in fun and engaging games. Further, educators can provide extracurricular activities, such as sports events or drama participation. Such events can also help children with ASD build confidence, self-esteem and make them feel included.
- Encourage positive reinforcement and rewards
Positivity is essential for children with ASD. It is therefore important to reinforce positive behaviour effectively. Parents and educators should create a system of positive reinforcement, where desired behaviours are rewarded with praise or small incentives. Such reinforcement can encourage social interaction and create a sense of accomplishment and motivation for the children.
- Celebrate strengths, talents and interests
Parents and educators should focus on building self-esteem and confidence by identifying the child’s strengths, talents and interests. Showcasing these strengths can promote a sense of pride and accomplishment in children, which can help to improve their social interactions. By celebrating their unique abilities, children with ASD will feel valued and appreciated, which can encourage positive social interactions.
children with autism spectrum disorder require support and skills to interact positively with those around them. By implementing practical approaches such as developing social skills, turn-taking, co-training with neurotypical peers and actively providing opportunities for socialisation, among others, parents and educators can help children with ASD build positive social interactions that can last a lifetime.
We also have another guide where we talk about ‘WHAT ARE THE KEY FACTORS THAT DETERMINE A CHILD”S SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, AND COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT?’ .