How to help children become aware of social cues that could be beneficial when faced with challenging situations.
Suppose an individual with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is aware of what he/she wants and is outspoken—how can we help him/her adjust (or use a softened approach for) how he/she voices views and opinions? If we focus on the solution in the picture above, see the individual as someone who “knows what they want and is outspoken” and refrain from seeing the person as demanding.
In previous articles, I outlined that a young person with autism might not perceive themselves as challenging, difficult, insistent, nagging, or possessive—or realize that the way he/she expresses him/herself could potentially come across in one of those ways. An individual on the spectrum might only be aware of what he/she wants and express themselves without full awareness of how much execution potentially affects the other person.
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Of course, being sure of our wants and needs and being able to give them a voice is a good quality to possess. However, there are unconscious social cues most neurotypical people abide by when expressing wishes. For autistic individuals, these embedded social cues do not always occur naturally, nor are they always taught.
Here are ideas on how parents can teach their autistic children social cues:
- Teach your child to be polite when asking for what he/she wants, by teaching him/her to say “please” and “thank you”
- Address your child in a gentle voice
- Teach your child to be patient when waiting to receive what he/she asked for
- A timeline is a great tool. For instance: when the child completes chores, he/she can watch a video
- Teach your child that nagging and asking repetitively can frustrate others
- Teach your child that he/she will not always get what he/she wants—sometimes, when teaching this to your child, he/she may not understand the reason behind it; therefore, it’s important to explain why when you say “no”
- Teach your child who he/she can approach and the socially appropriate way to do so—which support structures are in place? Who can he/she contact or ask when in need of something? What type of support system does the extended family provide? What support does the teacher, classmate, and other community helpers provide?
- Teach your child conversational skills and the associated rules—sometimes a request can be of a private or public nature. Do not assume he/she understands social cues
This article was featured in Issue 124 – Autism Around The World