As parents / carers of autistic children and young people, we can help them build friendships and interact with peers by teaching them important social skills such as reading facial expressions and understanding body language. Read on for more ideas from our autism expert Jane Pidduck.
To build peer relationships you need to have a good social understanding, relevant social skills and social competence. And above all, you need to have a desire to want to build a relationship. Autistic children and young people usually need support in this area.
A great way to help your autistic child build friendships is to provide opportunities to play a game or share an interest with other children. You can do this through play dates at home or social skills groups.
Another social skill that you can teach your autistic child is to learn some phrases that they can use to initiate a conversation with their peers. After they have mastered those conversation starters, you can then teach them more phrases to respond to questions or to end a conversation.
Autistic children need help learning to recognise facial expressions. While they are watching a show on television or reading a book, perhaps ask them how they think the people feel just by looking at their facial expressions. Also ask them who they think would be ok to talk to and who would prefer to be left alone for now.
Make sure to give positive feedback to your autistic child on their social interactions. Ask them how did it make them feel and how do they think the other person felt? Celebrate every win so they gain the confidence to continue using these newly learned social skills. You can watch our webinar on Peer Relationships on our YouTube channel.