This section aims at trying to help & guide Children with Autism.
It looks at problems faced while socializing in a group, initiating talks and suggesting ways by which a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can meet and develop positive & understandable relations with others.
One has to face varied social situations which often are very difficult for people with Autism. There are so many social rules one has to follow while meeting, chatting, eating, talking and behaving. A person without Autism learns things easily, instinctively.
But for a person in the spectrum, it becomes so confusing at times to understand social rules that are unwritten and unspoken.
This section would try to fit in most of the ideas which can offer, if not all, then some surficial suggestions to help the children while socializing or initiating a conversation.
Understanding Social Skills:
1. Social skills are standard ways of interaction
2. They are certain behaviour patterns that predict social outcomes viz. delight, consent, appreciation, etc.
3. Social skills are a medium of cognitive and verbal communication skills.
Generally social skill sets are picked up naturally and easily but people with Autism usually don’t have an implicit social mapping. For this, they need consistent Training and Practice.
To help the children facing social expectation challenges, we need to make implicit rules …Explicit. These rules need to be explicitly explained, practiced & reinforced.
Below are simple ways to start with:
While talking to Elders:
Try using a requesting language as well as respecting ways while addressing elder relatives.viz, using niceties like ‘please’ & ‘thank you’.
Most families prefer their elders to be called by relation and not by names, as Grandfather, Grandma, Aunt & Uncle appropriately. If you have made a mistake and upset your elders and don’t know how to behave in this kind of situation. Saying ‘sorry’ will help.
While talking with Peers:
(Academic Peers/ Play Peers) - If you want to initiate talk with someone of the same age group, or ability, It’s better to use “Hello” first as a greeting or “Excuse me”to grab attention. Greetings should be used appropriate to a situation. And try using Peer network strategy, which says if the person whom you greeted replies you with “ Hello” or greets you back, it usually means they are willing to talk. It’s good if you ask a couple of general questions / statements, viz. How are you doing? ; You are looking nice; you played well.
Penning down certain general questions is a good idea before you like to initiate talking. Making friends: It becomes very difficult for children with autism to make new friends. But once we understand them they can be the most precious and innocent hearted friends. One always needs a friend to talk & discuss things, to hang around and to rely on confidently.
This becomes very difficult for people with ASD to gauge the intrinsic feeling of someone, whether they are real friends or pretending friends because they either use voice & speech tones or body language for expression. People with ASD find it very difficult to detect and notice these expressions.
For that, try to wait for true friends, they will treat you in the same manner as they treat all their other friends. They will try to reach you and talk to you whenever they find time, they will share things and talks as well as care for you. This way you can easily differentiate and say content.
While talking to Age-Juniors:
Try to be as helpful and caring to juniors as your parents and teachers are to you. Try to make them feel welcome and talk gently to kids younger to you. Always give them a tender touch or a hug of affection.
Turn taking skills:
Kids with Autism find conversational skills tricky for numerous reasons. Conversations are not predictable and take on an instant response. This is the reason why kids with Autism avoid talking to peers and will often prefer talking to adults or kids much older or younger to them.
Talking about their particular interest: Most of the Kids with ASD have a special field of interest, they like to talk about or demonstrate it to others but they may need to learn that what interests them might not be of interest to others. It can be a good idea to form list of different topics, viz. Your favourite animal, greatest holiday, the weather today, your favourite singer, a movie, something you want to buy, a cartoon character etc. Instruct the child to pick one out and begin a conversation based on that topic so he learns to talk about different topics outside their immediate sphere of interest. Strike that one out when over and done with and move on with something new in his next attempt.
Board games are very useful to teach turn taking to kids with ASD. As these are tangible, visual and patterns can be easily grasped such as dice, strikers, etc. Turn taking embraces a set of skills used at once, but the main skill involved here is the need to be aware of others’ presence. And in such a set up of turn taking we need to follow the rules and take the feelings of others’ playing together in consideration to stay in the game.
Appropriate re-channelling of Emotions based on situations:
This sub section includes the idea of knowing oneself and one’s emotions first. And then analyzing the situation accordingly that may also involve proficient reading of the signals of others as a part of that situation viz. body language, facial expressions, voice intonation, contextual cues etc.
This probably is very challenging for kids in the spectrum. To manage such a situation ‘Practice’ is the only solution. Having a practiced set of verbal skills - vocabulary/intonation; action skills- eye contact, smile, hand extension, etc., will help to a larger extent.
Seven Steps Model for learning Social Skills:
Step1-Setting a Goal: select and noticeably define a handy & useful social skills goal.
Step2-Edify: illustrate what behaviour & conduct looks like and why this behaviour is important.
Step3-Model representation: display & make obvious the desired social behaviour.
Step4-Practice: The desired behaviour should be practiced over & over again with the help of role plays.
Step5-Timely & appropriate way of using of social skill : Initially one can start with a more explicit way of expression viz complimenting someone using encouraging adjectives, later on this should slowly fade and compliments should come rather naturally and even just a gesture for that matter. Try for a much natural display of desired behaviour.
Step6-Reinforcing & encouraging liberally: when someone has performed goal behaviour, we should reinforce it. Reinforcements may be little (just a hug, high five, etc.) but they should be of value to the performing child & the child should know what for he is getting reinforced.
Step7-Generalizing the process: promoting the practice of the behaviour at home, among peers, community and society in general and don’t miss to reinforce copiously for performing desired social skill goal behaviour.