How to Help a Classmate with Autism
By: Daniel Stefanski
If you have an autistic kid in your classroom, it would be nice if you invite them to play during recess. Playing with a classmate on the playground is something most kids take for granted but autistic kids often struggle with making friends due to communication issues and not understanding social cues. Your autistic classmate may prefer to play one-on-one or side-by-side like younger kids do so be patient and understanding. Group play may be overwhelming for your autistic classmate because of sensory issues. For example, loud sounds such as laughing and shouting may hurt his or her ears.
If you are a parent of a an autistic child and you aren’t sure if your child has friends, you might talk to your child’s teacher to see if he plays or talks with other kids at school. Ask if your child sits alone in the classroom, at lunch, recess, or school events. When I was in third grade, a neighbor told my mom that I usually sat alone in the lunchroom. My mom felt sad when she heard this but appreciated the information and then spoke with my teacher about having a “buddy” sit with me at the lunch table.
You might want to ask your child to if he has friends at school. If he doesn’t have friends, you can come up with ideas together about how to make friends during and after school. Kids with autism and other disabilities may have difficulty participating in sporting events, but there are other places where your child may make friends. Introducing your autistic child to other kids with similar interests can be a great way to find friends for your child. My local library has story time, a chess club and a Lego club. These activities are educational and fun. Plus, it’s quiet at the library and the other kids aren’t loud or rowdy. I like going to art class too and I’ve learned how to make ceramics, draw, and paint with other kids who enjoy the same.
If your autistic child continues to have trouble making friends, it might be a good idea to enroll him in a social skills group. I attended one and it helped a lot. The leaders were professional counselors and I learned how to behave in social settings. We practiced proper social behavior by “role playing.”
So classmates, parents, and students, continue to give kids with autism, opportunities to make and keep friends.
Daniel Stefanski is an autistic teen, for more advice check out his book, How to Talk to an Autistic Kid.