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How To Behave In Group Settings

Sometimes fun social events can be very stressful for a child on the spectrum. Group gatherings, such as assemblies, plays, places of worship, and sporting events, are meant to be enjoyable ways to spend quality time with your loved ones, but when a child with autism has a difficult time functioning in a large group, it is time to figure out how you can help them relax and feel like they are part of the group.

1. Let Them Know What to Expect: Before the event, provide your child on the spectrum with explanations and visual tools of what to expect when they are in a large group setting.

Depending on the activity,  additional expectations could include sing with the group, clap when other people clap, or raise hand to ask a question. You may also want to print out a list of these expectations and give them to your child during the event.

2. Videotape your child’s role playing: Role play different social events with your child and videotape them correctly demonstrating skills. Edit the video to show only correct behaviors and then play the video back to them. While they watch the video verbally point out appropriate behaviors.

3. Practice before an Event: It is always good to practice going to a specific event right before the even takes place. Go through each step from attending the event, proper behavior while at the event, when to cheer, when to listen, etc and what to do at the end of the event before leaving. This can be done at the actual venue or at home or school.

4. Be Realistic: Sometimes no matter how much you plan, some events will just not be appropriate for your child with autism. They may be too loud, slow paced, or too long, your child may not be interested in attending and give you a hard time, etc. When you, your family and your child’s friends throw events it is always important to set realistic goals, that way the event or activity is more pleasant for everyone.

5. Reinforce Good Behavior: Provide your child on the spectrum with positive reinforcement during the event for attending and following rules. Use what is truly motivating for your child to encourage them to continue to be on their best behavior and participate appropriately at the event.

Learning to follow rules and behave appropriately in large group settings such as assemblies, places of worship, or movies can be challenging for many children, but can be extremely challenging for a child that has been diagnosed with autism. Some events repeat frequently and provide frequent opportunities for practice while others may occur every few months or sometimes once a year. Regardless of how often an event or activity occurs, or how many large events your child on the spectrum attends, it is always important to remind them of the skills they have learned in the past and teach them new skills to help them participate, stay relaxed and have a good time, no matter where they are or where they go.

The Best Way To Practice New Skills

Sometimes we’re so focused on the task at hand that we miss great learning opportunities . It’s important to find every day activities that your child on the spectrum can relate to in order to practice new or emerging skills.

Use the strategies below to turn almost any activity into a fun learning opportunity!

Make sure your child’s goals are always on your mind and pre-select skills to work on during activities. The first step is to make the most of your child’s experience when you choose a skill to target.

Encourage your child on the spectrum to learn from other children by pairing them up with their peers who all have different strengths and give this group of children roles that develop their skills while doing an activity like an art project, group skit, etc.

Use every opportunity you have to practice these skills in different settings and while engaging in different activities, to always keep your child who has been diagnosed with autism interested. Assign a regular task that involves interacting with peers or adult and look for impromptu moments for skill building.

If your child with autism shies away from group activities, try to use materials that encourage their learning process. Many children on the spectrum would rather select independent activities rather than group activities. Although everyone needs time to themselves, plan activities where that you know your child will be interested in so that they want and have to interact with others.

Prevent skill regression by letting your child with autism be the experts and use skills they have already mastered and intermix them with new or emerging skills throughout the day. Plan events where they are in charge of the activity or are paired with a peer to be the group expert. These opportunities will allow your child on the spectrum to practice and demonstrate their skills to family and friends.

Family and community activities often are viewed as breaks from learning, but they are great opportunities for practicing existing, emerging, and new skills.

How To Make Friends

We all want the best for our children. We want them to grow up surrounded by friends, always happy and having a good time. For some, building friendships is easy , but for many children who have been diagnosed with autism making friends can be difficult. Children who have been diagnosed with autism may struggle with making friends and maintaining relationships. Here are some helpful ways for them to build friendships and improving social skills.

Remember that friendships are built from shared interests, so help your child get involved in community sports, art programs, and special events. These activities are wonderful ways to meet new people and engage in structured events with peers. Also it would be a good idea to look into specialty camps and classes geared towards your child’s special needs. Reach out to professionals and support groups for information and recommendations.

Role playing different skills with your child will also help them get used to socializing. Work on specific aspects of social interactions. For example, if you see that your child is standing to close to peers when speaking to them, teach them about personal space. If you notice your child asking the same questions over and over, practice communication skills. By working with your child on these skills at home, he/she will learn to improve on social skills and apply these skills when interacting with others.

It is also a good idea to provide examples of both good and bad social interactions while reading a book or watching TV/movies. It helps to point out how someone is helping others or using kind words when friends are talking to them. It’s also important to point out when a character is being harmful or hurtful to someone. One way to point out examples of unfriendly behavior is to focus your child’s attention on situations where a character is doing something unkind to another person and explain to them why that particular behavior is considered unfriendly. Then teach them the correct way to act in order to be a better friend.

Modeling good behavior and demonstrating kindness is also very important. Your children follows your example, so whether you are at the store, talking to a neighbor or interacting with a stranger, point out when they do something thoughtful and let your child know how it makes you feel. Also, if your child does something complimentary, let them know how happy their actions have made you.

Lastly, teach your child not to force friendships. Friendships happen naturally. They are relationships that grow from common interests and understandings. It’s important to teach your children to be kind to others and to involve them in activities, but it’s also important that your child knows that although it is good to be friendly to everyone, they don’t have to be friends with everyone, just those they want to build relationships with.