Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tips for Improving Social Skills In Autistic Children

by Andrew Gowans

Developing the child's communication and social skills before the age of two prevents the atrophy of any latent skills he already possesses. Using intensive therapy strategies from an early age alleviates communication problems somewhat, allowing the child to develop near-normal social and communication skill levels.
There are many ways to teach autism social skills, and tips for improving the child's social skills are a valuable starting point in the home environment. For example, using pictures to represent what he wants - a toy, his shoes, something he likes to eat - helps connect the external environment to his inner world. The picture represents a concrete object.
A good tip for improving a child's social skills is teaching him how to understand emotions, perhaps the one of the most important areas. Being able to read and interpret facial expression and body language is one of the basic human social skills. These could be taught through the use of pictures previously mentioned, gradually building on this foundation with appropriate verbal cues.
The next most important tip in improving the child's social skills would include developing his conversational skills as a follow-on from the more physical aspects just discussed. Awareness of personal space, listening skills, and staying on a particular topic are natural progressions. Being able to recognize a friend and knowing what is a friend is leads into group integrative play, and so forth.
There is one interesting caveat there, though. Children with autism often have the challenge of generalization to overcome when they are learning social and communication skills. This means, in essence, that the child may learn a social skill at home, but may not be able to make the connection between the skill and a different environment. Thus, a very important tip in improving a child's social skills is to teach him the same skill in different environments, or at least show him that he can tie his shoes in two different situations.
This tip is a key in improving an autistic child's social skills across the spectrum. By developing his skills in as many different places as possible, or helping him connect different people with different skills and surroundings, he builds significant connected concepts and steps "out of the box" of his mind. Whatever the concept that is being taught, it should be done during a time of low stress. The child will be able to focus more successfully and will be less likely to have a meltdown over a secondary issue not associated with learning a social skill.
There are many more resources and information about autism signs, symptoms, treatments, and cutting edge medical research in, Autism: Everything Parents And Caregivers Should Know About The Disorder

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