When you have a child with autism, sometimes it can be difficult for them to make friends. Raising an autistic child opens a whole new journey in parenthood where you must come up with creative ways to help your child to develop social skills, gain confidence and solid friendships. While the autism spectrum is a broad range, today I’ll focus on 4 ways to help your child with autism make friends in a way that works for how your child views the world.
Help Your Child with Autism Make Friends
4 Ways to Help your Child with Autism Make Friends
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Explain What a Friend Is
While you may not even think twice about what a friend is, your child doesn’t see the world in the same ways you do. Often autistic kids have a different connection to their environment and the people around them. Which means you might have to explain what a friend is in terms that they comprehend. Use simple terms like explaining that friends are people you enjoy spending time with, you have fun doing similar things together, and they ask how you’re doing. Explain friendship in a way that is both a rational connection and an emotional connection.
Practice Social Skills
Autistic children are very literal in their thinking skills and views of the world, so practicing in your home might help your child visualize what a friend is. You can practice sharing feelings and emotions plus, good vs. bad friendship and you can further this with activities that will show your child how to speak to and treat a new person in their life.
Using games and activities during friend times (play dates, Birthday parties) that children need to communicate for will help build your child’s confidence and help them to make friends. Try to keep friend times technology free, so the children get used to playing together as a pair or team.
5 Activities that help with Social Skills
Theme Word Game – Play a game with the alphabet or a theme where everything said has to be either the beginning of a word or something from a specific theme. An example is theme: Fruit and you go around taking turns naming different types of fruit (strawberry, banana, grapes)
Follow the Leader
The Memory Game (card game)
Emotion /Feelings Charades (a game where kids can guess someone else’s clues on a feeling or emotion)
These are five activities that help children in a variety of ways. Plus, they are fun games to play. Learning and developing social skills is an important part of helping your child build friendships and feel confident when they are with their peers.
Have your Child Join Groups
Take note of activities that your child with autism enjoys. Perhaps your child loves chess, art or science. Whatever your child enjoys is something that he could find a group or class on to help him engage with others who have similar interests. While your child may not do well in a large group setting, they may enjoy a small group or class outside of your home doing something that they enjoy doing, for example, a Science class. Ask your local church and other community members for ideas on local groups for kids that your child can join to make new friends.
Be Patient during the Process
If you use the first three tips to help your child make friends, you’ll have to go one step further and develop a lot of patience during this process. Your autistic child processes things differently which means they look and think about things in their world in their own way. A friendship for your child may not develop overnight, but in time they will take your definition of friendship, developing social skills and the people they know from their activity groups to eventually form solid bonds with friends. Give it time; there’s nothing wrong with setting these tips up for long-term success.
Take Your Child’s Personality into Consideration
A lot of children with autism enjoy having alone time and thrive in a comfortable, quiet space. I’m not saying keep them isolated; I’m just suggesting be mindful of their need for peace and calmness too.
Teaching social skills to your autistic child might be a journey at first. You’ll have to learn how your child thinks as a means to ensure you’re working with your child in a way that’s beneficial. There are many ways you can work to encourage healthy friendships for your child. I hope these 4 ways inspire you to start working with your child to feel confident and build friendships.
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