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Making new friends and creating new relationships can prove to be difficult for any child.  Children often need to transition to learning how to get to know others in order to work on building new relationships.  For this reason, as parents, it’s likely that you’re probably doing what you can to set up playdates and work with other parents to get your kids together.  For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and their parents, making new friends and creating new relationships can tend to be much more challenging. Despite the challenges, however, children with ASD can thrive from making friends; and relationship developing skills can be used throughout multiple areas of their lives.  Here are a few tips to helping your child learn how to develop healthy relationships:

Back to Basics

One of the most important parts of helping your child learn how to develop a healthy relationship is simple: teach them the basics of friendship. It can be easy for a child with ASD to not realize when someone may be mistreating them, and they can often mistake that for a “friend”.  Teach your child what to expect out of friendship. Build an understanding of how they should treat others, and how others should treat them. This will help them learn how to interact with peers in a healthy way, and avoid potentially being mistreated by another child, who may not understand how to interact with a child with ASD.  

Practice, Practice, Practice

Children with ASD often benefit from structure and different forms of practice to learn a new skill.  A child on the spectrum can face difficulty when reading and understanding social cues such as facial expressions, figures of speech, body language and different gestures.  Take any opportunity to practice different social skills using familiar settings (in your home with close family, for example). Additionally, you can try using scripts and visuals to help your child further understand what different social cues may look or sound like. According to the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism, a pyramid visual is a great way to start. “We use a pyramid visual that illustrates how a conversation starts small and branches out. At the top are simple things: asking a person’s name and grade. The next level goes a little deeper: favorite hobbies or school subjects, and so on. That’s the kind of learning tool that you can use at home, too.”

Talk to Other Parents

Just like a neurotypical child may not understand someone with ASD, a parent that has never experienced it first hand, may not understand either.  That’s okay, you may just want to address your child’s needs with a peer’s parent, before setting a play date. Depending on your child’s unique needs, you can talk to other parents, and make them aware of the differences they might see.  This will help them teach their child how to interact as well, and generally keeps both kids, and parents all on the same page.