Children with Autism usually display a severe socialization defect. This means that they lack social skills and the ability to interact appropriately with others on all social levels.
Children with Autism usually fail to develop social empathy or Theory of Mind – that is they do not see anyone else's point of view and they can not guess what you might be thinking. Eg if you kick your toe and start to cry, they will not understand why you're crying.
At times they may appear rude because of their inability to use the more minority aspects of social interaction. We must remember though that for children with autism social interaction is a cognitive process, rather than being intuitive as it is for the rest of us.
However this does not mean that children with autism lack the desire to have friends or be included socially. They do, they usually just do not know how to go about making friends or being included. Often children with Autism can be observed on the “fringe” of social activities – observing the interactions / play but not physically or verbally joining in.
These friendship skills need to be directly taught to children with autism and role play or video taped scenarios are good tools for teaching these skills. Children can be involved in a guided discussion about what worked and what did not when trying to be included or make a friend.
While children with autism are thought to lack empathy towards others, this does not mean that they lack feelings of their own. They seem to know when they make a social “faux pas” but do not have the social or emotional ability or the communication skills to repair the situation. Often they'll retreat, hide or meltdown to cover their anxiety over making such a social mistake.
If your child with Autism displays: –
• Inappropriate behavior choices with unfamiliar people
• Rude / inappropriate language
• Difficulty taking turns
• Aggression in an attempt to be social
• Being on the “fringe” of activities
• Confusion with social “rules”
then direct coaching of social skills and social play may need to be taught. Start with one simple concept and slowly build their social “vocabulary”.
Nelle Frances © 2008