Developing Social Skills

Question:

My 12-year old son has trouble socializing with his schoolmates and other children, in general. I feel like his school doesn’t go far enough to encourage his participation with more typical children. What can I do to ensure he develops the skills to interact with other kids his age?

Answer:

Inclusion is very important for children with Autism, and should be encouraged whenever possible. Interaction with others helps your child grow by providing:

  • Peer interaction
  • Peer modeling
  • Opportunities to develop social skills
  • Access to the general education curriculum

Many schools are now moving to an inclusion-based model. This means there will be fewer self-contained classrooms. As a result, more special needs children will be educated alongside their typically developing peers. Inclusion classrooms can help children on the spectrum learn commonly accepted behavior among more typically developing children. These classrooms also help more typically developing children learn to support and be kind to others with special needs. Before moving your child to an inclusion classroom, it’s important to assess the classroom to ensure your child will be successful.

The following criteria are important considerations:

  • The size of the class, student/teacher ratio, academic level of children, and noise level of the environment.
  • Whether the inclusion classroom uses ABA techniques, such as token economies and self-monitoring systems, or whether they are tolerant of these techniques.
  • Whether the classroom has set criteria for advancement based on learning and positive behavior.

Once your child is admitted to an inclusion classroom, be sure to monitor his progress and time spent in the classroom. If your child’s school does not offer inclusion classrooms, advocate for your right. Do not hesitate to strongly propose that the school system allow him at least some inclusion time. You can ask for this option at your child’s next IEP meeting. As your child grows older, he should also be given opportunities to work in inclusive work environments. Places that offer this type of employment include Home Depot and Publix. Autism Speaks has many resources to help prepare him for the transition from high school and college into the work environment. High school counselors and career advisors can also provide information and resources for those who seek employment in an inclusive environment. Talk to your BCBA about inclusion programs in your son’s school and, when the time is right, you should receive additional information and support for his transition into the community.

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