Thanks to those of you that sent me through your questions and comments in response to my last message. It gives me more ideas of the knowledge that you would like me to share with you. As mentioned, unfortunately I won’t be able to answer them all immediately, but over time I will certainly try to answer everyone’s questions.. so stay tuned!
A number of you were interested in knowing more about how to help your child socialise with other children. I may have touched on this topic before, but since most of these issues can be quite complex and in-depth, it can be quite valuable to revisit them from another angle.
So in relation to the topic of Socialisation with Peers it is important that you understand a few key things.
1. Signs that your child is ready to begin Socialising with Peers
A child’s ability to socialise effectively with other children comes very naturally once the child is interacting well with his or her parents/caregivers first. When your child is playing with you they must be showing the following skills:
- They are sharing a range of emotions with you. Your child should enjoy the value that you add to their playtime and share lots of smiles, laughter, frustration and sadness ‘with you’. They should be seeking your company A LOT throughout the day.
- They use their eyes to read your non-verbal communication (i.e: facial expressions and body gestures) because 70% of meaning is conveyed this way. This is SO important in peer interactions because a lot of children when they start out playing don’t say very much at all and your child needs to be able to work out the meaning through the other children’s body movements and facial expressions.
- They are curious to watch you in play and want to learn from you. Without pushing your child they should be able to see the value in copying you because they like your ideas and want to be like you. This is what it feels like when you are playing with a typically developing child and the interactions are effortless. It does not matter what you play with the child they are just so excited that you want to do anything with them!
- They want to stay engaged with you, playing for a sustained period of time without you having to entice them very much to stay involved in the game.
- They use their communication meaningfully (verbal or non-verbal) to share their thoughts and ideas. Some parents may think that their child cannot make friends because they are unable to use their language to communicate. Fortunately though this is not true. I have treated a number of non-verbal children at preschool who had lots of friends and played really well. These children could socialise well because of their good relationship building skills and their ability to effectively express their ideas non-verbally. This goes to show that a child can still have friends and have good socialisation skills even if they are non-verbal.
If your child is challenged in the above areas then a great way you can help them develop these skills is to learn about the therapy strategies in my audio, “7 Steps to Unlocking Your Child’s Social Skills“.
I know I have recommended this audio a few times recently, and I make no apologies for this because the skills we are trying to develop here are SO fundamental and important to everything else. I also feel that it is pointless to introduce you to new topics or strategies without providing additional resources to further your knowledge because I can’t possibly cover everything you need to know in a few short paragraphs.
As with any of the resources I recommend (whether they are mine or someone else’s), I endorse them only if I genuinely believe that they offer some very valuable and tangible benefits to the ongoing development of your child.
I am currently treating a little girl named Jodie. Since October last year I have been training her parents on how to develop the above skills. A couple of months ago at one of our sessions Jodie’s mum was so pleased to report that she was starting to play with some peers at her playgroup. To be honest, I was not surprised, as this was a natural progression for Jodie since her parents had worked so diligently on the “7 Steps” as well as building Jodie’s effective communication skills (non-verbal and verbal). You can learn more about how to build your child’s communication skills here.
2. Playing with a peer is a lot harder than playing with an adult
For this reason it is critical that your child’s fundamental social and communication skills are developed first so that they can have the greatest chance of success with peer play. If a child with autism has poor relationship building skills (as mentioned above) an adult will compensate for this and put in lots of effort because they want to have an interaction with the child. However, on the other hand, a child will not put in the same effort but instead will run off and find someone who can play their game a lot more easily.
3. Your ‘play’ needs to be fun and interactive
There are certain techniques that you can use when facilitating your child’s play with a peer that will help make the play fun and interactive. This email has already gotten very lengthy so I will explain this in next week’s email for you.
P.S: To discover how Jodie’s parents helped develop her verbal and non-verbal communications skills you may want to take a look at the audio “How to Help your Child to Talk” to help you fast track these skills.