One of the biggest challenges of being a parent of a child with a special need like autism is helping them socialize with other children. Socialization is an anxiety point for children with these sorts of needs and negative encounters with others can hamper social development. Working in small steps, discussing plans with teachers, finding groups that share your child’s interest, and employing behavioral therapy methods are all ways that you can best help your special needs child socialize.
Talk With Teachers
One of the struggles of being a parent of a child with special needs is the fact that you can’t be with them all hours of the day. Once they are old enough to go to school, you are leaving them in the hands of the educators and administration of the local school system. Communicating with your child’s teacher can be a great way to build a relationship and to get them on board with a socialization plan. Discuss your child’s needs with them and how best they can get them integrated with the rest of the children.
Work in Small Steps
Socialization can cause anxiety in children with special needs, so it is important to ease them into situations that are out of their comfort zone. The best way to get these children to improve is to build upon positive interactions, regardless of how small. For example, try taking them for a walk around your neighborhood; this will allow them to interact with neighbors with a simple “Hello” or polite wave. These are low risk interactions that should yield positive responses. From there, you can build to closer, one-on-one interactions with children their age and eventually to group settings.
Find Children with Similar Interests
As your child grows, you will be able to identify the activities that they gravitate towards. Whether they have an interest in art, music, or any other fun activity, when you figure out what makes them tick, it’s important to encourage it and find children that share that common interest. As children with special needs, such as autism, tend to have a tough time socializing, a good way to break that initial wall is to introduce a commonality between your child and others. If you enroll them in an after-school art program or music class (or whatever it is they like to do), it can help them work past their initial anxieties and pursue a relationship centered on that common interest.
Employing Behavioral Therapy
An effective way to help your special needs child socialize is to identify the challenging behaviors that your child may present and the factors that may cause them. This is one of the cornerstones of Applied Behavioral Analysis, one of the most common therapy strategies for child with autism. Behavioral therapy works by identifying these triggers and devises an intervention plan that works to produce more positive outcomes to social situations. This therapy is centered on positive reinforcement of good behavior and is specific to your child’s needs. Once a plan is created, it is a good idea to train caregivers and teachers on how to best implement the intervention plan for full effect.
Socializing a child with special needs can be a struggle, but it’s not impossible. If you have a plan and employ some assistance from the child’s educators and behavioral therapist, you can help your child assimilate well with others. Remember to reinforce good behavior and game plan for negative behavior.