In my last post I spoke about improving your child’s social skills, and how preparing your child with autism for successful play interactions with other kids is a step by step process.
As mentioned, your child will need to become competent at playing and interacting with YOU (their primary caregiver) before they have the necessary skills to be able to do this successfully with their peers. This is mainly because ‘typically’ developing children are not very patient and will not wait around if your child does not have the skills to participate in the game or activity that they want to play.
Therefore, step one is to make sure that you equip your child with these necessary skills by teaching them how to interact well with YOU first. You can get more help learning these skills with the ‘7 steps to Unlocking Your Child’s Social Skills‘ audio which I use regularly with all of my clients.
Once your child has mastered the skills from step one you can move onto step two, and begin increasing the amount that you expose them to peer interactions.
Please remember that to begin with your child’s abilities with their peers will not be as advanced as they are with you. It is important that you learn how to support your child through their play with peers so that you give them every chance of success by ensuring that they have a positive experience.
Here are 5 key strategies I use with my clients on a daily basis to help them build successful interactions with peers…
- To begin with I very much encourage my clients to be involved in the play with peers. I get them to use the strategies that I have taught them on how to ‘increase the emotional connection’ in play with their child. By doing this, parents become a very fun and effective player, and the other children tend to gravitate towards you of their own accord without you forcing them to be involved. This is a very natural way and one of the best methods of getting other children also involved in the play.
- Where possible, to begin with, parents should try and create play situations where there is only one or two other children involved, because otherwise it becomes too overwhelming for your child. Once they feel comfortable with small play groups then the number of peers can be increased.
- Your number one priority to begin with is to get an ’emotional connection’ going between your child and the other kids, where they are sharing smiles and laughter with them. Please note that you are not just interested in your child having a fun time but rather that they are sharing this great time with the other child. Sharing face to face smiling at one another is a great example of this. It is through this emotional connection that your child will increase their desire to interact with the other kids, see the value that they add to their life and then eventually become curious to learn from them….which is what you want!
- The most successful way of initiating interaction with peers is by you starting to play in a really fun way with YOUR child with what THEY are interested in (ie: the way that you do when you are playing one-on-one with them). If it looks like fun then the other child will be curious and will want to join in the action. Then just like magic you have another child joining in!
- When you are playing you should direct your attention and ‘sharing’ of smiles and laughter a lot of the time towards the other children. The reason for this is because hopefully YOUR child will naturally be drawn to look at YOU because of the work you have done following my strategies from step one. Then when your child looks at your face and you are directing your attention towards the other child this will naturally direct your child’s eye gaze towards their peer. Remember that your number one priority to begin with is to get your child sharing more emotion and fun with their peer.
So these are just a few key tips to get you started. As your child gets better and better at sharing emotions with other children you can slowly withdraw more and more from the interaction.
The key to making this work really well is the ’emotional connection’ your child creates with their peers and not just playing alongside them! Sure it is important for your child to have time in their day to also explore their environment independently but they also need some adult support when working on developing their socialisation skills with other kids.
Have a great day