Kaarin Anderson Ryan, PhD, BCBA; Darlene Magito-McLaughlin, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA; Christopher Smith, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA
Thanks for joining us!
Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping it will transform into a door. ~ Coco Chanel
We are a group of experienced psychologists and behavior analysts who have been working together for over 20 years. We have actively worked in our communities to help all kinds of people with different needs, including individuals with autism, their families, and the professionals who support them. Much of our work has been through consultation and therapy services, as well as community involvement and the establishment of a local community foundation on Long Island to provide social opportunities for people with unique needs.
So why start this blog?
Although we have been able to help many families in New York and in Michigan, where our offices are located, we still hear about a lot of unmet needs and unanswered questions when it comes to supporting people in homes, schools, and community settings. We decided it was time to share some of our experience, resources, and insights with a larger audience. Our goal is to give you tools, resources and insights to help you deal with everyday challenges. We will be posting weekly to give people the best information we have to help with a huge variety of problems that come up when you are navigating the world of special needs, behavior management, and community supports.
Today, we’d like to start our series on friendship. All too often, people who have different needs are granted so many resources to help them with academic skills, with daily living skills, with behavior management issues, but are not given as many resources to help them with a basic skill that can promote life satisfaction and happiness. The skill of making friends.
How many of you have seen someone with different needs struggle to find and keep friends? How many of you have watched as someone you love blunders in social situations, time after time? Have you ever had to bite your tongue to not offer support and help to a teenager with autism as they muddle their way through a conversation with a peer?
We have seen this time and again. And while there are lots of programs and books out there to help people build these skills, some of these are overwhelming, expensive, and yet one more thing to have to worry about. Often for families and other support givers, these social needs can fall to the back burner in favor of more pressing needs, like passing a class or learning how to get ready for school in the morning.
What to do?
- Start with practicing basic conversation at home or in class. Try using conversation starters, like a Chat Pack or a Thumball .
- Help kids, teens and young adults by letting them role-play and rehearse with you for different types of conversations they might have trouble with on a regular basis.
- Invite family or friends who have kids around the same age for *brief* playdates: An hour or less to start. After the playdate make note of what went well and what seemed to be a challenge. Give your child a lot of positive feedback for the things that went well. Before the next playdate, practice some solutions for the things that were difficult.
- Look into local groups or gatherings that might be of interest. For younger kids this might include library groups or activities, for teens there might be clubs and organizations at school. Check the website for your community Search “Upcoming events for kids in (name of your town/city )to find upcoming events that might provide opportunities for social inclusion. Champaign, IL has a great example with chambanamoms, and Colorado Springs offers mykidsweek.
- Make sure you have a good system to communicate between home and school about how things are going socially in both settings. Work together to tackle challenges and exchange information about things that are going well so you can build on them together. If your student seems to be spending some time with any particular kids, share that information with the family soon, don’t wait for the next IEP meeting!
- If your child is really struggling to gain skills, seek support from a therapist who specializes in autism to unique needs, or look into ABA therapy for more intensive skill development support.
- Follow the lead of the individual you support. Some people will do better with less social interaction and pressure. The important thing is for the person to be getting what he or she wants socially, not what other people think he or she should want.
Most importantly, do not give up on the person you are supporting, whether it is your child, your student, or someone you are supporting in a community setting.
Join us again next week, when we will be going into more depth about resources for friendship and social skills, with our own review on several products.