How Does A Speech-Language Pathologist Help Child With Communication Disorders Autism and Social Interaction

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Autism and Social Interaction

A characteristic of autism often described is a possible impairment in social interaction. However, parents sometimes get confused about the importance of a child having social interactions with peers of the same age. As a school psychologist, I have seen many scenarios of how parents interpret social interactions regarding autism.

Brother interaction

Parents often describe a child as having a lot of interaction with a brother or sister. However, this is limited because the brother can overcompensate for the child that he knows so well. The sibling often gives the toy or item before the child even asks. In other cases, the sibling may give his food to a crying child without any kind of social communication required. A sibling can also be aggressive to take the child’s game and run away before the child with possible autism can even respond. A sibling may start talking and answering for the child which does not facilitate the child’s social interaction. If possible, parents should try to provide a wide range of play experiences that extend beyond sibling play.

Interaction with older children

Parents sometimes describe that a child only wants to play with older children. Problems arise for children with autism when the older child begins more play experiences and social interactions. The older child can create the “play school” by organizing the materials, teaching the lesson, distributing the papers and giving social praise. However, the child can only respond or not respond in the game experiences. The child with autism may not be provided with enough play experiences and opportunities to initiate social interaction.

Interaction of adults

I once heard a parent describe social interactions for a child with autism and all the interactions described were with adults. Sure, I’ve seen this many times with an only child interacting with mom, dad, and a grandparent. However, I have also heard about too many interactions with adult therapists. I heard a parent suggest that she didn’t want a preschool program for her child because the child was missing all of the therapy. A child with autism may receive individual therapy with an adult physical therapist, an adult occupational therapist, an adult speech therapist, and an adult behavioral therapist. The problem with this approach is that the child is only social interaction and communication with adults and lacks the important social skills that can be learned from peers of the same age.

Ways to increase social interaction with peers

-Consider recreation center camps and age-based classes where the child can learn new things and fun learning activities from peers who are close to their age.

-Let the child discover interactive lessons that are taught by adults, but where the child has practical experiences with peers. Swimming lessons or dance lessons provide a great introduction for children to learn new skills and observe and interact with peers who are learning the same new skill.

-The interaction of the club or social group can provide many experiences of the same age for children. Children who attend different clubs can see other children showing and demonstrating the use of objects. Other children may bring an item to a child with autism and wait for a response. A child may want to point to something in the room for another child to see or respond to in the game or in the group.

-Finally parents should not forget the importance of providing healthy social interaction experiences for children with autism. Any opportunity for social interaction that provides the child with autism time to improve communication with others and interaction in a social environment can be positive and rewarding for the child to learn new social skills.

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