Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Transitions into Adulthood- Part 2: Socialization

As I continue into the four part series on helping our young adults prepare for their transition into adulthood, socialization is the next topic that I will touch on. As many of you may have experienced while working with children who are on the Autism Spectrum, sometimes socializing can be a very difficult and/or scary thing for our kiddos! But, just as it is important to each of us to have friends and family who we can do fun things with and enjoy spending our time with, it is equally as important for each of our kiddos to have these opportunities as well. Hopefully in your child's school placement, they are receiving instruction in social skills to help grow in this area. However, there are things that we can do at home as well to help our kiddos through this part of their lives. Here are some tips & ideas to help you help your kiddo as they learn to navigate this part of their lives.

  • Check your local community for activities that your child can become involved in. Obviously our larger cities will have many more activities and outings available but small towns usually have activities for our children also. Examples of activities that you can look for are: 
    • Church groups
    • Local support groups for families of children who are on the Autism Spectrum and/or who have disabilities
    • Meetup groups
    • City Management 
      • Most cities and towns, no matter what size or where you are in the US, provide groups for our kiddos. They actually keep pretty busy with monthly and weekly calendars. Some of the activities I have heard of are: weekly movie nights, bowling, participating in a play, skating nights, cooking nights and much more. It is worth checking into this wherever you are located!
    • School organizations 
      • Ask about organizations that are available at your child's school. Think about areas of interest and how they might be able to be involved. Most high schools have a large variety of groups and activities so chances are there could be a group in an area of interest to your child.
  • If your child's school doesn't have a peer group, talk to the teachers about the possibility of setting one up. This can be done fairly simply and many students are eager to get involved. Some ideas for peer groups are: 
    • Lunch groups
    • Peer helpers in class
    • Monthly/quarterly social events like a dance, cookout, movie, etc.
  • Pen Pals....electronically. Most of us use technology to stay in touch/communicate with our friends and families--- have your kiddo do this too!
    • Set up an email account and have students get names and email addresses of friends at school or family members who they can communicate with regularly.
      • I found it easiest to use a structured format for my students to follow when teaching them how to use email. 
      • Talk with your child about how to appropriately ask someone for their contact information. Practice this at home before they set out to do this at school. 
      • Please see below for an example: 
    • Set up a Facebook account--what a great way for them to learn to stay in touch and communicate with others. 
    • Teach your child how to send and receive text messages. This is an easy way for us to send easy messages like "Mom, I made it home safely" or "Mom, I did my chores can I have computer time now?"
      • Again, when using a structured format to teach a child to text they catch on much more quickly. 
      • See example below: 
    • Set up a Skype account and make connections with family, friends and peers who you would like to communicate with. 
      • If your kiddo has difficulty with maintaining back-and-forth conversation have them stick to a script until they become more comfortable with this. 
      • See below for an example: 
      • *Please note this is a very short example but it gives you an idea of how to help structure a scripted conversation for someone who may need it.
  • Plan monthly friend outings with your child and your network. If you have established a local network through support groups, church, school, etc. plan age-appropriate activities for your child and their friends to get to do. 
    • Give your child the opportunity to pick an activity they want to do with their friends. The more opportunity they have to make choices in their lives the better. Often, our kiddos don't get a lot of choice about what goes on in their lives. By giving them the opportunity to choose social activities they want to do with their friends, you are providing them with a great thing!
Hopefully some, or all of these ideas are things will be of help to your family! It is a long list so don't be overwhelmed. If your child has a very difficult time with socializing then take it in small steps. This is a pretty difficult area for most kiddos who are on the Spectrum or have a disability. Start with finding a local support group. It helps to know that there are other families who are dealing with some of the same struggles as your family is. Once you start there that gives you the opportunity to establish a network and support system to begin exploring some of the other socialization parts of life. Good luck & happy socializing!

*Here is the link to download and print the resources listed: Email tips, How to send a text message & scripted conversation