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The Social Skill Deficits for Children with High Functioning Autism and How they Can be Improved

written by: Paula Davis • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 10/6/2010

Like other people, autistic individuals often request to be in social gatherings and maybe have some friends. Achieving that goal is another story: what they actually do in front of anyone else can be a real turn-off. It's not easy, but herein are some practical ideas and suggestions that may help.

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    What are Social Skill deficits for children with high functioning autism?

    The social skill deficits for children with high functioning autism can be improved, some more than others. Individuals with this condition really want to be like other children and have friends, but they do not know how to appropriately achieve these aims. In order to attain successful social skills you must have the ability to make eye contact, and have appropriate facial expressions. You must also be able to tell how a person is feeling by looking at them and noticing their expressions and body gestures. These are things that autistic individuals find difficult.

    Another social skills problem for an individual diagnosed with high functioning autism is that they have trouble understanding the thoughts and feelings of others. One must be able to understand these to participate in a conversation, as well as understanding how inappropriate behavior affects others.

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    Having the desire but not the social skills leads to anxiety

    Individuals with high functioning autism desire to be accepted, but they become frustrated at their social skills deficits. This frustration leads to stress and anxiety and ultimately behavior issues. They are not able to understand the feelings of another person. You can tell them your mother is sick, for example, and there is no sign of concern or empathy. Is this an upsetting trait? Yes it is.

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    Social Skills and Daily Living Skills are Connected

    Many individuals with high functioning autism are unemployable because of their social deficit. It is very difficult for them to perform well in an interview; their language skills deficit means they cannot “sell” themselves to the employer and their personal grooming is often very poor which does not create a good impression.

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    Treatment

    Of course the natural goal would be for the individual with high functioning autism to attend a class and receive specific training on social skills that are acceptable and how to react to certain situations. Unfortunately this type of social skills training is very limited.

    When you notice your child has inappropriate social skills it should be called to his/her attention. Stop what you are doing and explain the situation - what happened, and how they should have reacted appropriately. Then question if what you explained was understood. Whatever the reply ask him/her for other appropriate responses and if they cannot think of any help them along with some suggestions. There is more than one way to react to one situation. Explore those avenues and ask for possible solutions/replies.

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    Complimenting always helps!

    It is important that you compliment, take turns giving and receiving compliments. Most children with high functioning autism do not know how to give a compliment or how to respond to one.

    Niceties such as “you look very nice today” are all a part of social skills. I am not saying that it will always be easy with them, that they will automatically breathe in everything you say because the lessons still have to be taught and it is a never ending job.

    All of the information that I have included in this article is from personal experience that I have learned along the way while raising a child with asperger autism whom is now 30 years old.