Peer Interactions and Autism

While it may not be terribly evident in how he interacts with his sister sometimes, Caleb does in fact LOVE other children. I found that this is typically true out and about in the community though and not so much on his home turf. When someone has come over to play here he tends to continue to want to do his own thing but will tolerate another child doing their thing too. But he seems to know that when we go out and about, that that is EVERYONE’S turf and he is consistently so much more social. Add that to the list of why it’s imperative to get Out and About with your child.

Here are some tips for helping children interact and communicate with children with Autism in inclusive settings. Be it school, home, a pumpkin patch, the grocery store- it all applies!

1.) Teach them about non-verbal communication.

Saying words is not the only way people communicate. Children with Autism may use gestures, point, or even want to lead another child somewhere to show them something they would like to do. Let your child know that this is the same as when they use their words to tell you something. Using pictures or a speech generating communication device is also the same as your child using their voice to some children with Autism. Caleb is going to start using AAC and I’m excited to help encourage him to use it with other kids when we go out!

2) Help them try to be patient.

The mixed language delays and auditory processing difficulties so frequently found in children with Autism can make it difficult for them to process verbal information without visual support. Help your child be patient in saying something another way, demonstrating an example, showing a visual, or simply allowing more processing time for a response.

3) Pre-teach. 

Children with Autism may have sensory processing deficits that make them sensitive to certain sounds, textures, smells, etc. Or these sensory needs may manifest themselves in sensory seeking tendencies such as excessive movement, heavy work seeking, etc. Explain to your child that another child may have trouble with loud noises or need to have opportunities for lots of movement and relate it back to them having something they don’t like or a way they prefer to do things. Kids are smart and pretty empathetic little creatures if you give them the information and an opportunity.

4) Let them know they’re acknowledged…even when they think they’re not.

Let your child know that kids with Autism sometimes have difficulty with eye contact. It may be hard for them to understand that if someone isn’t looking at them, that they’re still listening and still want to engage with them. Children with Autism will also sometimes look towards a communication partner’s face but maybe not directly in their eyes. Often, they are looking at a speaker’s mouth as it helps them by providing a visual cue to what’s being said to help them process information.

 

Now I want to share some “Did You Knows?” with you about interactions between children with Autism and typically developing peers:

– Peer Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII) is an evidence-based practice for children with Autism.

– PMII programs benefit children with Autism in generalizing social skills they learn in school and therapy to real world settings.

– They also benefit typically developing children by increasing tolerance of peers which can lead to a reduction in bullying.

(Source: Indiana Resource Center for Autism)

 

If you have the opportunity to let your child play and interact with a child with Autism, take it. If you live near me and are looking for an opportunity….it’s coming your way 😉 As always, lead your child by example. If you demonstrate patience, tolerance, and acceptance, your child won’t be far behind.

Love and Autism,

Erin