Five Tips for Helping Your Autistic Child Make Friends

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Autism can lead to some lonely days for your child. Children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome often want to make friends, but lack the natural social skills necessary to do so. This can lead to withdrawal and antisocial behavior. That, coupled with other unusual behavior, can make them a target of bullying. With an estimated 4500 autistic children under the age of 18 in Dallas, this can lead to a lot of lonely kids.

The good news is that it’s not impossible for your autistic child to make friends. Learning how to make appropriate friendships can minimize their problems, reduce bullying and result in lasting relationships with other children. The sooner these skills are learned, the better chance your child has of having a normal social life growing up. Seek treatment from a Orange County therapist who specializes in autistic disorders, look into classes and programs such as these, and use these five tips to encourage your child to make friends:

1) Change your child’s environment to encourage social interaction. Invite other children over for playdates at your home. Children on the autism spectrum may not be drawn toward people their own age or gender, so ask them who they’d like to have over. Children naturally feel more comfortable in their own homes, so inviting others over for playdates is a good way to make them feel good about interacting socially.

2) Make sure the children you invite over are aware of what autism is. This may involve going to your child’s classroom and talking to the class or just having a talk with them when they come over. Children are naturally curious, so make sure you answer all their questions. You don’t want them to be shocked if your child has an incident.

3) Don’t underestimate the empathy of the children your son or daughter chooses to have around. Traits like teasing and bullying are not as common as you might think and are usually done out of a lack of understanding. Many children are more nurturing than you could imagine, and your autistic child may end up with a team of protectors and defenders as they go through the school years.

4) Work privately with your child to develop their social skills. Understand that things we learn intuitively, such as giving compliments, accepting criticism and being fair, likely will not come naturally to an autistic child. Drawing picture cards that show a variety of emotions and body language can help your child learn to interpret visual signs that someone is happy, sad, angry or bored. Explaining that they need to ask others questions can help them learn not to dominate conversations and only talk about themselves.

5) Do not discredit the importance of early intervention through therapy. Finding a Dallas therapist with experience in autism treatment is crucial. While your child is observing and learning about social interaction, their therapist can help them with specifics, guiding them through potential scenarios with scripts and helping them deal with their feelings.

Your autistic child does not have to go through life alone. With a little work and a lot of patience, they can have a happy life surrounded by the comfort and security of good friends.