Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to Help Children With Autism to Integrate With Others

How can we help our children with autism fit in with other kids?

As parents, it can break our hearts when we see our child with autism struggle with feeling different. Often children with autism may end up avoiding social situations altogether because of the challenges of decoding social signals. In addition, the noises, sounds, and smells of those around them may be too much for them from a sensory standpoint. Finally, they may have episodes of being bullied, and thus are afraid to deal with any more social situations.

Deal With Your Own Thoughts and Feelings About Your Child With Autism

Sometimes, we are unaware of the depth of thought and emotion we have with our child. We may be in denial of his/her differences. We may unconsciously be angry that they are not like neurotypical children, and we may be trying to make them be someone they aren't. We may be either overly focused on their weaknesses.

Make sure, as a parent, that you take the time to read autobiographies of children, teenagers, and adults on the autism spectrum. Watch TV shows and movies that portray Aspergers and Autism in a realistic, yet positive light. Go on YouTube, for example, and view the videos that Taylor Morris has put out. As parents, teachers, friends of individuals with autism, we need to give them the respect of understanding what autism spectrum is, and respecting the differences, strengths, and challenges.

Once You Have Learned All About Autism, Teach Your Child About His/Her Strengths

It's absolutely paramount that you let your child know how unique s/he is. Learn about his/her special talents, interests, and abilities. Help him find activities in which he can participate, which can help him learn more and build on those strengths. Once your child is involved in some of these activities, she may find out that she connects with other kids with those same interests.

Start Off Small

Be on the lookout for other kids in your child's class who may have connected with him/her. There are some special kids out there (NT's) who are genuinely nice, extroverted kids, and they will often serve as a kind of social buddy and friend to your child. Be proactive about getting your child together for play dates when younger, and help your child learn how to use the phone to invite another child over. By doing this on a regular basis, you can help your child appreciate her friend/s.

It's best to begin with one-on-one interactions, since triads (three or more kids) can be very confusing for your child.

Take Time to Teach: Before, During, and After

It's not always easy, but you are your child's best advocate and teacher. In as non-intrusive a way as possible, talk with your child about what a good friend is like. You may want to check your local library for kids' books that talk about and teach friendship in a story. This will hep prepare your child for the concept of friendship.

During the play date, you may need to intervene if you see really inappropriate behaviors, or if you see that your child is not very engaged.

After the play date, you can talk with your child about how the time went, and discuss what went well, and what can be done differently.

Realize That Your Child May Truly Enjoy and Need Time Alone

Being alone is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, individuals on the autism spectrum are often mystified by how desperately NT's seem to want to connect with each other. Time alone in between time with friends allows your child to explore his/her interests, be away from distracting sounds and lights, and in his/her own comfort zone, which would usually be his/her room or home.

Research Helpful Social Skill Materials and Share Them With the School Social Worker

School social workers have limited time, but they can be very helpful in helping your child on the autism spectrum learn appropriate social skills. If you are involved in your child's individualized education planning, I would suggest that you look up Michelle Garcia Winner on the internet. All her material on social thinking is invaluable, and is written with teachers in mind, so that these social skills can be literally written into your child's individualized education plan. She writes in a way that educators can understand, so that social and emotional intelligence can be broken down into goals and objectives for your child.

I hope these tips come in helpful for you. Let me know of any other ideas you have!

About the Author: Stephen Borgman is a licensed clinical professional counselor, and the author of the blog, Prosper With Aspergers, http://www.myaspergers.net, dedicated to bringing Hope, Understanding, and Solutions to people on the autism spectrum. Please stop by for more helpful articles!

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Steve_Borgman

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