Social Skills in children with autism

One of the hallmarks in children with autism is impairment in social skills. Social skills are a set of rules we use to interact with others.  Initiating interactions, play skills, joint attention, Turn-taking are examples of some of the social skills children have to learn to communicate and interact with other people daily.

This was not an area of strength for Aarian.  He loved being around other children but never interacted with them. He would engage in parallel play around other kids. Eye contact was another area that Aarian struggled with. He would only make eye contact if he wanted something or he wanted to play with us sometimes. Aarian's ability to participate in a group activity was very limited. In a typical school day 20-25 minutes was set aside for Aarian to participate in a structured group activity.

The group consisted of 3 to 4 students. They played simple games that focused on turn-taking. He was able to attend and sit through the group activity but rarely interacted with his peers or school staff. A wide variety of toys and games were used to target these skills. it included shape sorter, puzzles building blocks, Mr. Potato Head, Candy land game, play dough were used to target these skills.

A specific program was set in place for Aarian to work on his social skills. He was encouraged to greet his peers and adults in the morning and say goodbye at the end of the day He was given opportunities throughout the day to engage in different activities with his peers at the water table, playground, and structured group activities in the class. Aarian slowly started responding well to this program. He began responding to the good afternoon song by waving with adult prompts. He was able to take at least 2 turns in structured play activity with a peer with adult support.

He also started interacting with us at home in a way he had never done before. In the past he refused to interact with us but slowly we started noticing a difference. He would participate with us in small sessions wherein we would sing to him nursery rhymes and also some finger play songs. In the past when we came back from work he would hardly take notice. He also started showing happiness when we came home and wanted to spend time with us. He had limited attention span with activities which also improved slowly. We were asked to take him to different social skills programs in the community to help him which we did so.

He is in high school now but still he struggles with some of the social skills. He still does not directly interact with his peers but will do so in school in a structured activity. He is beginning to read nonverbal cues at home and is able to respond appropriately. I am sure with time we will see more improvement in Aarian in terms of his social skills.


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