Friendship can be a difficult issue that comes up quite often for those who are parenting autistic children. There is no doubt that most children with autism want friends, but they just lack the skills to be able to make them. Friends end up being just one more thing they have to learn; one more thing they have to figure out; one more thing that just does not make any sense to them. What comes intuitively to those parenting autistic children comes with a lot of work to autistic children themselves.
Why do children with autism have so many problems making friends?
Well, autistic kids can not read social cues, or easily understand the “street slang” that many neurotypical kids use. Children with autism are not able to talk casually and easily like other children their age do. As a result, they can be shunned. Autistic kids can not easily enter into conversations. Those parenting autistic children often see their loved ones being isolated, and not fitting in.
For autistic children who want friends but who can not quite get the hang of how to get them, it can be quite painful. These kids try as best they can to engage other kids. Unfortunately, their way of speaking or the conversation topics that choose rarely matches the interests of other children their age. For those who are parenting autistic children, we stand at the sidelines watching our automatic loved ones fail time and again.
Their peers are not interested in spaceships, the history of paper clips or Bugs Bunny. No matter how much they might try to emulate the manner and ways that their friends speak and the words they use it comes out sounding forced … like reading off of a script. Sadly, most of the kids their age will not make the effort needed to put up with their awkwardness and difference.
Four Roadblocks to Overcome
To make friends those parenting autistic children must first understand the major roadblocks that prevent their autistic children from developing friends. Once we understand these roadblocks we can help our autistic children to overcome these hurdles. When parenting autistic children, the following four issues that often inhibit friendship development:
- Odd mannerisms: kids with autism often talk too loud, and can not modulate their tone of voice. They might interrupt others and not realize it, they might avoid eye contact, and they might violate the physical space of people around them without being aware that they are doing it. It also goes without saying that many children with autism will rarely talk excessively about their favorite topic.
- Rule oriented: Many kids with autism are very rule oriented. This does not work well well with other kids, who do not want to be so bound down with following rules (or may not even be aware of what the rules of a particular situation are – many kids like to make up their own rules when playing different games.)
- Immature interests: Often kids with autism will have interests that are more typically found in age group several years younger than they are. This makes it harder for them to connect with their peers. Those parenting autistic children may notice that their loved ones tend to get along better with children several years younger than them.
- Sensory issues: Kids with autism get overwhelmed very easily by the environment around them. This is another problem that can get in the way of doing things with friends.
Each of these issues is well known to therapists and various methods and treatments can be used to teach your autistic children how to improve their friendship-building skills.
Helping your child to make friends can be difficult, but it can be done, if you understand what the issues to bypass are. Parenting autistic children comes with many challenges, but you can overcome them with time.