A good friend of mine has a young son who was diagnosed with autism this past year. I wanted to learn more about children on the autism spectrum so I could better interact when our families were hanging out. I noticed he had trouble making eye contact, relating to others, was quiet, and didn’t seem interested when my son and I were playing nearby. After some research and many months of forming positive interactions, I found these tips to be most helpful when engaging with him. I hope these help you positively interact with a child in your life who is autistic.
Make an Effort
Interacting with a child on the autism spectrum can be challenging and demanding, but avoiding the interaction is a big mistake.
Even when it looks like a child doesn’t want to be engaged or that they’re shutting you out, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Instead of concluding that the child doesn’t want to talk and giving up, keep making an effort to involve them in the conversation gently. The truth is that kids on the autism spectrum often want to be included, but they find it difficult to figure out how.
Your efforts to interact may not always seem successful, but they are beneficial for the child and your relationship. If their responses are blunt, don’t take it personally – kids with autism can have trouble showing their emotions, but they need to know that you love them, so don’t be afraid to show it.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Most kids, including children on the autism spectrum, respond well to positive reinforcement. That means that you should praise them for the behaviors they’re doing well, as it will make them feel good about themselves and the interaction altogether.
Try to be specific so that the child knows precisely what you praised him for. Then, think about the best way to reward them for their behavior with a fun experience rather than something tangible, like a trip to the playground or a dance party.
Focus on Non Verbal Communication
Some kids with autism may develop language skills a bit later than their peers, have limited vocabulary, or use no words.
Fortunately, language is not the only available means of communication. To interact with a child positively, try using non verbal communication as well. For example, eye contact, nodding, pointing with your finger, or a frowning face can be easier for your child to interpret than words.
Focusing on non verbal communication is especially important when interacting with children with non verbal autism. This is because they often develop various behaviors that signal things you might otherwise expect them to verbalize.
Certain motions or actions from a child may tell you more than words if you pay attention to them and learn how to interpret them.
Keep It Simple
Try to keep conversations simple and focused. As these kids tend to take things literally, try to stay away from abstract statements and metaphors – the odds are high they will not be able to interpret them.
Try to keep your sentences short and direct, and say exactly what you mean. Also, pay attention to the pace of the conversation – you want to be sure that the child has enough time to process what you’re saying.
Talk About What Interests Them
Your efforts to communicate with a child with autism won’t be very successful if you try to force them into discussing things they’re not interested in.
Obsessions are often a part of this syndrome, and this means a lot of discussion about one particular thing at a given time. You might find these discussions simple or boring, but the child will be far more engaged if you stick to the topic they actually want to talk about.
While playing increases visual and motor skills, many autism experts think that it can improve verbal communication skills as well.
You can try the following activities and choose the ones the child seems to enjoy:
- Developmentally appropriate matching and sorting games
- Playing with action figures, dolls, or stuffed animals
- Jello sensory play or play dough, if the child is okay with sensory experiences
You can also consider familiar pretend play, such as cooking or other activities they see caregivers perform. These are all great ways of interaction, that will stimulate the development of their communication skills.
Include Your Kids in Everyday Activities
Kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) find it hard to cope with the world that is built for a neurotypical child. It’s essential to include them in everyday activities so that they can get used to the world around them and acquire skills for living in the community.
So, even though their behavior may sometimes seem unpredictable to you, take them with you on everyday errands and try to include them in interaction so that they learn how to cope with your support.
If you have a child with autism, he may need some extra effort from you to develop his interaction and communication skills. By following the tips above, you will see positive results and enjoy your relationship. To learn more, I encourage you to sign up for Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny’s online class, Working With Children With Special Needs.
About The Author
Stephen Jones is a freelance writer and a new father. “Becoming a father for the first time is not easy, but it is so much happiness that complicated things are handled in the best way because the baby is the fruit of love and he brings great satisfaction.” Stephen enjoys writing about health, food, nutrition, and children’s health for other parents. “Freelance writing has always been my passion so I combined the two and hopes to be able to share my passion with others!”