As parents, we want to see our children succeed and be happy. We understand that there will be challenges in life, but teens who struggle with making friends and understanding social cues may experience even more challenges around connecting with peers.
Why Teens with Autism Struggle with Social Skills
Social skills are the rules, customs, and abilities that guide our interactions with other people and the world around us. All teens benefit from engaging in social interaction regularly and social interactions can help teens with autism develop vital skills they will use for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, these teens often experience challenges with social skills, such as making eye contact, initiating conversations with their peers, or asking to join in a group activity. Reading facial expressions or understanding social dynamics can be challenging, which causes teens with autism to feel intimidated or anxious around social interactions.
Helping Your Teen Improve
As with all life skills, social skills can be improved through practice. Here are four strategies to practice your teen can use to help them feel more comfortable in social situations with their peers:
- Practice Scenarios: As we said above, we learn through practice. Helping your teen practice introducing themself is a great basic social skill. You can model an introduction yourself, and have them try introducing themself, making eye contact, shaking hands, and asking the other person’s name. The more they repeat this process, the more confident they will feel using this skill with new people.
- Personal Teaching Stories: Teaching stories are a great way to talk about social skills and teens can make a personal connection when they see themselves in the story. Using their name and real-life examples in the story show them how things will work in the real world. If you’re working on social skills in a restaurant, use the name or pictures of their favorite restaurant. They can read a first-person narrative about waiting to be seated, choosing their meal, ordering their meal, and table manners.
- Find a Social Skills Group: Social skills groups offer an opportunity for teens with autism to practice their social skills with each other and/or neurotypical peers on a regular basis. Practicing social skills with others who have autism can feel like less pressure for teens because everyone in the group understands the struggles that can come with learning new social skills. Groups provide structure with multiple and varied learning opportunities.
- Working with a Professional: While there are many things you can practice at home, it can also be very beneficial to seek out a behavioral therapist who can work with your teen and your family to address any concerns. They can help your teen practice social skills while working to replace negative behaviors with more positive ones.
New Focus Academy Can Help
At New Focus Academy, every child has a plan and a purpose. We look at every student as a completely new individual with different dislikes, desires, learning differences, and needs. This is why we’re so successful; we treat the student, not the problem.
Our keys to success include developing a specific plan for progress in each student using the Autonomy Development Model, employing Concept Driven Learning to promote learning that transfers out of the classroom, and forming Social-Emotional Fluency to manage the challenges that block our students from progressing in day-to-day life. For more information please call (844) 313-6749.