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Yes, You CAN Teach Autistic Teens How to Make Friends

By April 14, 2009

Autistic Teens CAN Make Friends
Allan Shoemake/Getty Images
It seems that the best way to teach autistic teens to be successful social communicators is to break down the rules, and teach them one by one. This is probably common sense to some, but to many the idea of actually teaching social communications techniques as one would teach math or physics may be brand new.

Of course, social skills classes have been going on for years. But just recently one such class become the focus of a research study. According to a story in NewsWise:

The class focused on teaching rules of social etiquette to the teens, while their parents were given information about how to supervise the implementation of these newly learned skills. These included: how to comfortably join and exit a group of peers; how to pick the right peer group (such as jocks, nerds or gamers); learning good sportsmanship; learning good host behavior during get-togethers; changing bad reputations by changing one's "look" and owning up to a previously bad reputation; and handling teasing, bullying and arguments.

Each class included brief didactic instruction, role-playing exercises in which appropriate social skills were modeled, behavioral rehearsal for teens to practice newly learned skills, coaching with performance feedback, and weekly "homework" assignments supervised by parents, such as inviting a friend over to the home for a get-together.

What makes this study so encouraging is that participants, at the end, really were more self-confident AND "hey and their parents also reported a significant increase in the frequency of hosted get-togethers and a significantly better quality of friendships at the end of treatment, in comparison with the control group."

Of course, a class like the one described above is not for every autistic teen. It seems clear that there are quite a few prerequisites for success. Among them: solid verbal skills, an ability to imitate and memorize new rules, and - naturally - a strong desire to be socially accepted by peers.

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