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The first step to making a friend is understanding what a friend is. Children with autism can have difficulty reading social cues, which makes it harder for them to recognize and display appropriate, friendly behaviors without direct instruction. Work with your child to identify friendly behaviors using pictures, real life examples, or other communication methods that work best for your child. For example, if your child communicates through pictures, you can show images of friendly behavior, like a child helping another, to show how a friend acts. Use specific, concrete examples of what friendly behavior looks like.
One of the best ways for any child to make friends is by helping them meet other kids who share their interests. Look for clubs, classes, or other activities hosted by your school or other local organization. Doing something your child love will help them stay interested in the activity and surround them with children who like the same thing.
Don’t underestimate the power of a playdate. One-on-one interactions in a familiar setting can help your child connect with a friend without the sensory stressors that may be present at school. Help coordinate playdates by asking your child or their teacher who they spend time with or is nice to them at school.
Preparation is key to a successful playdate. If you know your child doesn’t like when others touch their favorite toys, put those away or organize something outside of the house. Have your child help come up with an activity they and their friend will like, whether it’s baking cookies, making a craft, or building with blocks. These kinds of activities help stimulate conversation, which will deepen the children’s friendship and strengthen your child’s social skills.
While you might be tempted to fill your child’s social calendar, be mindful of overwhelming them. The quality of the playdate is most important to a budding friendship, not the quantity. If you know your child needs more alone time, make sure to coordinate shorter or less frequent playdates.
Contact us at Trumpet to learn more about helping your child develop, understand, and use social skills to build strong friendships.