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The new school year is upon us – new routines, classmates, teachers and of course, time to find new friends.
Kids who have impaired or delayed social skills may have a more difficult time finding and keeping friends. As a parent, I struggle with when and how to intervene, particularly now that my daughter is a bit older, in that ‘tween age group.
I remind myself that this social norm is no different than other delayed skills that she needs support with; it’s OK to help. Arranging play dates and searching for suitable friends not only fills a social need, but also serves to teach an important social skill that might not come naturally.
Using social stories have helped our child to be more open to new experiences. A learned skill, she’ll now walk up to peers to introduce herself and make small talk. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes the interactions are plain awkward, but each time she tries, she’s learning.
I’ve found that outside activities are a great place to meet like-minded friends. Tae Kwon Do is one activity that we’ve found is a good fit. In a class with other kids, there isn’t a need to constantly interact – since everyone in the group is following the instructor. We’ve found the culture to model positive and respectful social interactions without being overwhelming. Moreover, we can observe, first-hand, the kids who genuinely interact with her — and those are the kids we facilitate play dates with.
Summary: Social stories, observation and outside activities are a few ways to help find friends for your special needs child.
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