4 Essential Tips for Building Social Interaction Skills in Young Students with Autism
Inside: Social interaction for autism support tips, social skills ideas for classrooms, and social skills curriculum links.
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1. Understand What Social Skills Look Like
An important starting point for both parents and teachers of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is understanding that children with ASD often have difficulties building and maintaining social relationships with others. Understandably, every parent wants their child to find happiness wherever they can, be it in their friendships, other relationships, or elsewhere. Teachers likewise want their students to make friends and challenge, support, and engage each other in learning exercises. Understanding the social impairments and skills of children with ASD is essential to finding ways for them to build and foster social relationships. Equally important is understanding that for many children with ASD, it is not that they lack interest in social interactions, but instead, it’s that they do not yet have the skills to communicate effectively. So for us as adults in their lives, recognizing any hard to work through effects of trying to socialize, such as heightened anxiety, is necessary to help children move forward comfortably. We need to understand social interaction in autism in order to help support students. Here are some ways to do that.
2. Keep In Mind A Few Details About How Imitation Affects Socialization
Many school districts offer students with ASD the opportunity to receive social skills training in a contained setting, such as the school’s resource room or in the speech therapy room. Some schools do not offer this resource. Teachers should keep in mind the importance of looking for ways to engage their students and bring the skills that were learned in the smaller setting into the classroom. Teachers should also keep in mind how different social situations impact their students. It is hard to figure out how to help students to ensure that they are able to learn and grow without feeling undue stress. But, teachers certainly try their best to do so. Finally, it is important to keep in mind that imitation is a vital part of skill development for children. Children with autism sometimes do not immediately develop the ability to imitate, making it difficult for them to pick-up on social skills that could otherwise be gained through imitation. Many teachers have turned to specific teaching practices to help their students with ASD learn how to imitate. Learning about these practices can help teachers lead their students overcome barriers to communication and skills development. Here are some resources that foster imitation skills.
3. Engage With Non-Verbal Students
There are many resources online that can provide teachers with ideas to engage with their nonverbal students with autism. Check out our Social Skills page for a complete social skills list of activities. As a teacher, it is important to help every student feel heard and feel that their communication is welcome, even if they do not express themselves in the same way as other students might. Take advantage of any resources you can to find ways to bridge gaps in communication. We have some Ideas for Encouraging Communication and Social Behavior In Children with Autism on this site. As a communication partner, expect to put in extra work to communicate with your nonverbal students with autism. It is well worth the effort.
4. Know the Difference Between Direct Instruction and Learning Through Social Cues
Direct instruction is how many of us would imagine teachers leading a classroom. This concept refers to a teaching style where an educator stands in front of their students to present their lesson. Direct instruction often requires lesson plans and specific educational milestones, such as the completion of assignments and exams. Not every student learns best through direct instruction, though. In fact, many students with autism perform well when given the opportunity to practice their social skills with a peer. This less direct educational method allows students to learn to recognize social cues. Choosing the most effective way of working with students with autism is not a one-size-fits-all situation. For this reason, it is important that teachers understand multiple approaches so they can learn which works best in their classroom.
As you see in the items listed above you get an idea of why social skills are important. Remember to try to gain a working knowledge of the different curriculums and activities teachers use successfully. There are a wealth of resources online that provide ideas for curriculums and activities that can help students with ASD. As a teacher or caregiver, keeping an open mind and gaining a working understanding of different teaching styles and activities for teaching social interaction with autism support classrooms, can greatly help your students.
Links for Information or Supports about Teaching Social Interaction in Autism
Building Skills for Children with ASD
Provide Structured Social Lessons
Social Skills Worksheets Bundle
5 Strategies to Teach Social Skills for Autism Support Purposes
Using Social Skills Worksheets to Craft a Social Skills Classroom Program
Social Skills Training for Students with Autism
Why Social Skills Are Important
Summer Social Skills Activities for Kids with Autism When Summer Camp is Not an Option