As we’ve been discussing this month, autism treatment and therapy cost lots of money. What’s a parent to do? The good news is, social skills therapy is easy to do on your own and an area you can save money. Let me rephrase that. It’s fairly easy to create opportunities and find places for social skills therapy. It’s still a lot of work to model skills for your child and help her successfully navigate situations.
I remember having a child who couldn’t look at people and who ignored other children. I remember the boy who couldn’t attend library story time. I remember the pain in my husband’s demeanor because my son could care less if he were around or not. find a church that fits your child’s needs
Over the years as an autism parent, I’ve learned that the best social skills therapy is practicing in a variety of settings and group sizes after instruction. The more modeling and repetition (and patience), the better. These nine places have served us well.
- Home – I think many professionals overlook the value of socialization in a child’s home. Home provides a safe place to learn new skills. Parents model appropriate social interaction and siblings
- Church –If you are fortunate enough to find a church that fits your child’s needs, church is a great place to learn and practice social skills. Your son will get to interact with both children and adults. Additionally, he can learn appropriate public behavior– things like sitting still in an audience, keeping quiet during an event, and dressing according to an occasion as sensory needs permit. Be patient. Your child may have many challenges in the beginning. Baby steps are still steps!
- Library – Our local library played a huge part in my son’s progress over the years. Again, you’ll be taking baby steps here. At first you may only be able to go in long enough to pick up a book you put on hold ahead of time. That’s ok! Consider telling your librarians about your child’s challenges. They may be willing to practice skills with your child. For example, they may be happy to help your child practice introducing himself to someone or telling his parent’s phone number to a grown up. Side note: librarians are also great for chatting about special interests with your child. My son with Aspergers can bring up just about anything and our head librarian has something to add to the conversation.
- Post office – Here your child gets to learn how to wait in line without invading the personal space of others. She can learn appropriate voice level and how to interact with a clerk.
- Store – At a store, kids with autism can learn how to ask for information, how to purchase items they need, and how to appropriately deal with sensory challenges.
- Social Skills Group – Why not create your own social skills group? Find some other autism parents and decide the structure. Will it be just play? Focus on a certain skill each week? Be centered on a shared special interest? You could get really brave and take your group to some of these other places!
- Playgrounds/parks – In my experience, this is one of the toughest places for both my son with Aspergers and me. The variable of other children in a more unpredictable environment increases the chances for awkward and tough situations. But isn’t that real life? So, while these situations are exhausting for both you and your child, they are important. Again, start with baby steps. You may not be able to stay long. You will need to do lots of monitoring. But that’s ok.
- Arranged play dates – You can arrange play dates with typical children and other children on the autism spectrum. Start small. It is always better to end on a happy note than to experience a meltdown because you went too long.
- Museum/attraction – I remember in my early days as an autism parent I was reading an article about kids on the spectrum and their unexpected reaction to gifts. The author suggested asking for money from relatives/friends to be used towards memberships as an alternative. I latched onto this and we still do it. By having a museum or zoo membership, you have the opportunity to explore the resource at your child’s pace. You don’t need to feel like you wasted money if you can stay for only thirty minutes. Additionally, your child can learn many skills. You can teach them how to identify a safe adult should they get lost (name tag, certain type of clothing, etc.). They can learn how to ask questions and wait their turn to use something. Plus, when you frequently visit, you will discover your child may have opportunities for extra learning because the guides get to know you or you’re there as they pack up and offer extra information.
As I said earlier, social skills therapy for your child with autism is indeed hard work. However, using these relatively inexpensive locations, social skills therapy is accessible. Your child will make progress and you will be amazed.
Have you discovered a great place for social skills? Tell me about it in the comments!
Jenny Herman wants to live in a world where dark chocolate dispensers reside on every corner. As a homeschooling special needs mom, she’s been featured in Autism Parenting Magazine, Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids: Mostly True Stories of Life on the Spectrum, and various blogs. If she survives the onslaught of testosterone in her home, she may take a moment to blog, read a book, try a new recipe, or loom knit a gift. You can find Jenny’s book The Power of One: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life Amazon. Discover her tips for special needs parenting, hands-on homeschooling, and pressing on at jennyherman.com.
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