Social interactions for teens with ASD

Interacting with peers may create particular challenges for a teenager with an Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) entering and progressing through secondary school. Initially they may find it difficult to understand the changing world from the teenage perspective. This can become a challenge in a school due to the increased student population, changes of teachers for each subject, movement to other areas of the school for classes, recreation activities and for each subsequent years it will most likely change again.

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Typically teenagers will be able to:

  • Read body language and the nonverbal cues that indicate he/she is welcome or not welcome to join a discussion
  • Enter and exit a conversation appropriately
  • Talk without interrupting or being rude
  • Demonstrate good sportsmanship
  • Accept positive suggestions or possible solutions from others
  • Change voice to suit the location and expectations of others
  • Control anger or hurt feelings
  • Accept some mild teasing/joking banter without getting upset
  • Understand the difference between mild teasing and bullying
  • Think things through before making a decision to act

To help your teenager with ASD in the development of these skills the following strategies may assist:

  • Sit with your teenager and use TV shows to observe body language and nonverbal cues and explain to your teenager what these mean
  • Teach ‘conversation starters and exits
  • Teach good sportsmanship statements
  • Create situations to model suggestions and prompt thinking around solutions
  • Teach voice modulation responses for different environments
  • Use opportunities when watching TV to discuss people’s emotions and how they manage anger and hurt feelings
  • Model and use stories to identify the difference between teasing and bullying.

By practicing and modelling these skills you will enable your child to make better sense of the social world of the teenager. If there is another teenager that your son/daughter would be comfortable in discussing and practicing these skills, it will be a more authentic way for them to learn. Sometimes teenagers just don’t want mum and dad to teach them these things but they still need help to learn as it will not necessarily be intuitive for them.

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