According to research carried out by our team at Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai, UAE, an autistic child will have trouble speaking, make strange sounds or not talk at all. Common autism diagnosis shows that infants and toddlers are less likely to pay attention to social stimuli, smile and look at others less often, and respond very little to their name. However, none of that dampens the fact that they’re intelligent, honest and capable individuals.
There is an overwhelming report of autistic people voicing their desire for friends. And they have shown that they can and do form friendships with not just autistic but also neurotypical peers. Their interactions may sometimes look different from the norm; however, that mustn’t let one keep them from forming a potential relationship.
Through autism treatment and counselling, a child can learn social skills and overcome anxiety. But a good behavioural plan can only get them so far. They need experience with those around their age.
Take the lead
Your autistic child may need to be the one to take the first step. It’s always difficult to start a conversation, but a gesture as simple as a smile or a greeting can also be enough. Support your child with confidence, and offer them encouragement and motivation. They can talk about an upcoming assignment to get the conversation going. Parents should also teach their children how to respond when someone else approaches them. You can review with a child with an autism diagnosis the current social skill they have been working on; taking turns or using appropriate voice, tone or volume, etc.
Rather than let the autistic child come back home and flop down in front of the T.V, have them join school clubs. Even something like church choirs or neighbourhood social works will do. Keeping in mind their interest, encourage autistic child to involve themselves more. Without forcing, have them look up recent trends and what their age group is generally interested in. Book clubs, cooking classes, constructing, anything that attracts your child- let them try their hand at it.
Inclusion is a better autism support method than isolating the child, as the latter may cause the child various worries or lost hope. Give them a reason to try and socialize with others. When they have a goal, they would work towards it eagerly.
Invite over some classmates
Children feel more at ease around each other in a home environment. They can indulge in games, or can bond over common interests more freely. It’s alright if your autistic child doesn’t seem to engage or relate to the other child. Parallel play can still help form a bond between kids, particularly at young ages.
Respect their sensory differences
We, ourselves, have to make an effort to make their attempts at friendship work when being approached by an autistic individual. An important factor to keep in mind is that these individuals are often unusually sensitive to sounds, sights, touch, taste and smells. High-pitched sounds, like fire alarms, can be painful for some; while others may find scratchy sounds intolerable. You must learn to respect these sensory differences, even when it doesn’t make sense. Don’t let them feel like the strange one by assuming that they might be overreacting.
Be supportive of your autistic friend
Make an effort to get to know them. According to autistic diagnoses, some people with ASD have trouble maintaining or regaining attention at work. As such, during a conversation, you should try to answer questions as soon as possible, or let your autistic peer know when to expect an answer. This will help maintain high levels of productivity.
Bullying and abuse are two of the many violent reactions faced by autistic people. We must empathize and support them against the many social vices of systemic stigmatization, isolation and normalization of violence against autistic and other children of determination. It’s a small step that will go a long way.
Relationships have an impact on not just our well-being, but personal growth as well. An autistic child has difficulties reading social cues or reacting in certain situations. It is thus important that we not overlook this issue, and construct ways in which children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can find it easier to build theirs, as simply as any other child can.