Friends just happen, don’t they? Any parent or instructor of a student with ASD knows that unfortunately this is not often true. Making sure the student with ASD feels accepted by and connected with the peers they see everyday can be challenging. Bridging peer connections over the summer break can often be difficult.
Here are some things we’ve seen talented teachers and parents do that can make a positive difference:
- Have all the students in the class fill out an “about me” chart to post and share. Give them the job of finding a peer with whom they have something in common. Have students develop their own business cards. With parent’s permission, allow students to trade business cards (includes name and phone number) with other students in class.
- Create class groups that allow the student with ASD to show one of their strengths (create the art, read the directions out loud to the others, use their area of special interest).
- Educate peers about the learning strengths and weaknesses of everyone! Encourage students to recognize that everyone is different in one way or another.
- Teach students specifics… telling them to be kind is usually too vague! How do you help someone who is shy? How can you play with someone who doesn’t talk? How do you figure out what your friend likes and doesn’t like?
- Be proactive. Talk to the teacher about who in the class seems to enjoy spending time with your son or daughter. Who might they have something in common with? Set up play dates in your home with activities you know your son or daughter enjoys. Keep play dates short and structured especially at first.
- Check out local community offerings. In British Columbia, ACT BC’s website contains links to organizations that provide summer camps and other activities geared especially for those who are challenged by ASD.
- Create an “About Me” scrap book highlighting your child’s strengths and interests. Let him bring it to school and share it with others.
You may find the following resources useful in helping your child or student develop and maintain friendships:
- An Autism Awareness Peer Support Pack is available for download at http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=3013442
- The following books are available from the POPARD Amazon Bookstore: