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We all want our children to have friends, and sometimes it can be heartbreaking to see your autistic child not have the friendships that your neurotypical children have. Take heart, mama. Just because your child is autistic does not mean that they will not make friends and keep wonderful friendships. They just might look a little different. Today I’m going to give you some ideas for helping your autistic child make friends.
Don’t forget, this is part of the Autism A-Z Series for Autism Acceptance Month. To see all of the posts in the series, make sure you check out this post that has the links all at the bottom. I’m also hosting a Fundanoodle Fundraiser for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, so if you have kids under 2nd grade, check out the fundraiser here! Okay, now back to this post. 🙂
Give Them Opportunities
We mamas tend to be a bit overprotective and sensitive for our kids who struggle. It can be all to easy for us to swoop in to save the day the second that our little one seems to have an issue with a friend. Telling the friend that they should share their toy with our child because our child doesn’t know any better or understand. Or telling our child to play a different game because we’re concerned about the other child getting frustrated or mean. Resist this urge! Obviously if your child has violent outbursts, intervene as is appropriate, but try to not fix situations before they’re broken. If someone tries to play with your child, but your child doesn’t understand their game, give the two kids a chance to figure it out before “helping”. Go to play dates even though they can be exhausting. Get involved in classes or groups even if you’re nervous the other kids won’t be nice. Help your autistic child make friends by giving them plenty of opportunities.
Practice Social Skills In Comfortable Environments
A-Man is still pre-school age, so social situations don’t come about organically. We have to intentionally get the kids around other kids their age to practice social skills, and that works great for most kids. However, starting with a traditional playdate can pretty much be throwing your autistic child to the wolves. In a new location, with new faces, new routines, new smells, new snacks, it’s completely overwhelming. Practice social skills in comfortable environments with familiar people, like at home with siblings. Once your child is comfortable following typical social rules, like sharing and taking turns, with their siblings, then start adding in some close friends. Take it slow.
Adjust Your Expectations
Friendships for your autistic child might be a lot different than for neurotypical children. It’s common for autistic children to have two or three very close friends, rather than a larger group of friends. They might be perfectly happy playing among children without seeming to interact much. That’s perfectly fine. Let your child make natural friendships and relationships without dictating how they play and interact. Do you and your best friend do things exactly like all other best friends? My best friend and I tend to run errands together and eat great food. Other friends vacation together, and still others prefer to go to the movies. Let your kid become friends however fits them and their friends.
It is absolutely possible to help your autistic child to make friends. Just give them plenty of opportunities and take everything at their pace! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in the Autism A-Z Series and the Fundanoodle Fundraiser!
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Kaylene is a homeschooling, work at home, special needs mama who is severely outnumbered by her kiddos! When she isn’t taking one of her kids to therapy, teaching a math lesson or writing a blog post, you can find her snuggling up on the couch with some cocoa and a good book.