Autism and social skills go together. Children with autism generally need a lot of help learning to have appropriate social skills. The question is what social skills do children with autism need to learn?
Here’s a statistic that boggles my mind
They say 28% of 12-24 year olds check their Facebook account before they get out of bed in the morning. Now I knew Facebook was popular . . . . but when you are still in bed????
What does this have to do with children with autism?
Did you know that parents request social skills training for their children with Autism Spectrum Disorders more than any other service? In a California survey of parents of children with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, more than half reported that their children played with NO ONE outside of school. Parents are identifying a significant need for those students on the autism spectrum.
How are their peers socializing?
Teaching or treatment for children with autism needs to include information about what their same age peers are doing. Here’s the important question. What social world are we preparing our students with autism for? Who are they going to be socializing with? How do their peers socialize now?
Facebook? Twitter? Did you know they text more than they talk on the phone? Most are more likely to open Facebook on their phones than on a computer.
At what age do “typically developing students” begin to use these “modern tools for social inclusion?”
Think of it like this.
If everyone is playing soccer and I want my child to join in with those other children, it would be a lot easier if he knew how to play soccer. That seems pretty obvious.
So how do our children with autism join in the current social-tech environment? Do they have the tools or the skills to join in? Maybe the real first questions should be “What are the tools?” “What are the skills?”
Of course age makes a difference
It isn’t appropriate to think about teaching a 4 year old how to text. I’m not suggesting that. But I do think it’s important to keep alerted to what same age peers are doing.
I’m not doing a value judgment here
Of course there will be opinions about how our teenage population uses or abuses technology. That would be a powerful discussion. But we need to wisely look at the current culture that our students with autism or Asperger’s are growing up in and trying to belong to. In some way, we need to decide what part of that is appropriate for them to learn about or participate in.
How do you have friends?
If you want to have friends, do you need to be able to participate or play the same “games” as the other children? When parents are requesting social skills training for their children with autism, what skills do they want to be taught? These are questions that don’t have easy answers.
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