If you’ve ever tried to talk to a toddler from behind a closed door, you know how disconcerting it can be.
Why is it such a strange experience? Because regardless of the barrier between you, young children tend to act as though you’re in the room with them.
They’ll hold up their favorite book for you to ‘see’, or point to something they want you to notice. Why can’t they understand your perspective?
In today’s post, we’ll address this question, and how it connects to teaching social skills to children on the spectrum.
I have heard that many children with autism have difficulty with social skills, and that this difficulty impacts how they get along with peers and siblings. Why is that? What can be done to provide support?
Answer From Amalie D. Holly, Board Certified Behavior Analyst:
Children with autism often experience a “Theory of Mind” deficit. Basically, this means that they are unable to read social cues effectively or look at life from another person’s point of view. Another term for this social disconnect is “mind blindness”.
In typically-developing children, there is rapid growth in theory of mind skills between ages 3 and 4. (that’s about the age at which it gets easier to speak to them on the phone!)
However, children on the spectrum experience developmental delays that affect their ability to see from another’s perspective.
As you might imagine, it is very difficult to act appropriately in social situations if you cannot understand what another person is thinking or feeling!
For example, say you’re a child on the spectrum at a new school, and your classmate starts crying when her parents drop her off. Since you don’t have good Theory of Mind skills, you are unable to understand why she’s so upset.
Then you laugh loudly, because it seems funny and strange to you that she’s crying. Your classmate then becomes angry with you. Since you didn’t know what to say or how to act appropriately, you inadvertently hurt your new classmate’s feelings.
Having a Theory of Mind deficit can isolate you from others, making it difficult to create and maintain friendships.
When children can’t read social cues, they can’t learn social skills solely by watching others. Instead, such skills must be taught explicitly and practiced thoroughly.
FirstPath Autism addresses these skill gaps by providing social lessons and strategies. Our program covers everything from learning simple identification of basic emotions to understanding how to act in complex social situations.
Theory of Mind skills can be taught, and FirstPath Autism provides the tools that children need to learn. Practicing these skills can help chilren to get along better with others and empower them to navigate social situations effectively.
If you’re a FirstPath Autism member and you’re interested in teaching your child with autism social skills, try these two helpful lessons with your child:
This lesson teaches students how to identify and recognize emotions in self, others, and pictures.
Video: Situation-based emotions
The focus of this lesson is to teach students how to identify and recognize how someone typically feels in common situations.