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Archive for September, 2011

Developing Friendships

You knew how to comfort your daughter when she had a disagreement with her best friend in second grade and she thought they would never talk again, but it is a far more daunting task to explain to your 13-year-old how to make a friend, especially if he feels he has never had one.

For many of our kids, there can be a large disconnect between having “friends” (other kids that they talk to) at home and having “friends” (other kids that they talk to) at school. It is so important for our kids to develop real friendships especially as they get older. It is also tremendously important to us as parents to see them develop friendships. However, because of the differences in the way that we grew up relating to our peers and the way our children with autism spectrum disorders grow up relating to their peers, it can be very difficult to know how to encourage and support friendship growth for our children.

Here are several steps that you can take to help support your child in developing friendships.

  1. Talk about a “friendship scale” with your child. You can make 3-5 different levels of friendship and discuss with your child what each of those levels mean, how you know that you are at that level of friendship, and what the benefits and responsibilities of each level of friendship are. This can help make “friendship” more concrete and understandable for your child. An example of 5 levels would be: acquaintances, friends, good friends, close friends, best friend/s.
  2. Help your child identify a few other children that he/she wants to work on building a relationship with. You may need to utilize support groups or contacts within your child’s class to find children who would likely be good friends for your child. Talk about things that can help make a good friendship such as similar interests and similar ages. You can help your child come up with questions to ask new children he/she meets to help decide if they might be a “good friend.”
  3. Help your child identify two or three ways each week that he/she can work on improving his/her relationship with the child he/she wants to build a relationship with. You can help your child come up with ideas such as: Call Alex to talk about what he did this weekend;  tell Andrew about my new video game; invite Emily over to play; sit next to Jenna at lunch.
  4. Evaluate each week with your child and if possible with the other child, where they feel like they are on the “friendship” scale and how they can continue to build or maintain their friendships.

These steps can help your child see and feel progress in making friends. Certainly children at different levels will need more or less support, but having a plan of action can make the task of supporting friendships easier.

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