Social relationships can be difficult for any teenager to navigate, but creating and maintaining relationships has another layer of complexity for teens on the spectrum. Working with teens on socialization is essential as it can boost self-esteem, increase a sense of belonging, and provide practice for essential skills like managing emotions, responding to others’ feelings, and problem-solving.
Social Isolation and Autism
Teens with Autism are especially likely to experience social isolation during adolescence and beyond. In order to maintain successful relationships, individuals must be able to relate to, care about, and build upon each other’s experiences. This can become difficult for teens with ASD when they are faced with relational situations that they do not know how to deal with.
While most teens would respond well to good-natured teasing, flirtation, sarcasm, and other adolescent norms, oftentimes teens on the spectrum don’t know how to respond to these social overtures. Their anxiety and awkwardness during these situations can cause them to withdraw from any social situation, and you may notice them finding any excuse to avoid social activities.
When teens experience social isolation through rejection, non-acceptance, or bullying, they are also at risk of developing mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation. If your teen is struggling with social isolation, there are a number of things you can do to promote positive socializing.
How to Help Teens on the Spectrum Be More Social
There are many strategies you can try to help your child with ASD develop positive social skills. Below are some tips to help teens on the spectrum socialize.
Modeling Social Interactions: Children and teens learn by watching those around them. As the most influential model in their life, it can help for parents to model appropriate social behavior as often as possible. Because your child might not understand the social behaviors, take the time to explain the scenarios to them highlighting what just happened including facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.
Role-Play: Ask your teen what social situations they are struggling with and act these specific interactions out. Allow for opportunities to practice both sides of the social interaction and give praise when he demonstrates socially appropriate responses. Role-playing allows teens a chance to practice how to respond to a situation in a low-risk environment before encountering the situation head-on with a peer.
Watching TV Programs: Although keeping screen time down can be a good thing, there are many social benefits that can be gleaned from watching television. Watch with your teen and pause during a social interaction to ask what he would do next in that situation.
Self-Management Techniques: When teens learn to recognize and regulate their behavior, it can also help them with their social skills. One strategy for self-management is using a tick sheet; if your teen’s goal is to make eye contact when they are speaking to someone, have them use a tick sheet to keep track of their progress.
Social Groups: Social Skills groups provide opportunities for teens with autism to practice their social skills with peers on a regular basis. These groups can help provide structure and predictability, break down abstract social concepts, foster awareness and self-esteem, and allow teens a chance to practice skills that can be transferred to real-life settings.
Discover Seven Stars Can Help
Seven Stars is a leading autism-focused residential treatment center that specializes in helping teens 13-18 struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorder, learning issues, neurodevelopmental disorders, and executive function deficits. Built upon the foundation of positive psychology, self-efficacy, self-determination, and cognitive theory, we are here to help your child improve socially, emotionally, and academically.
We utilize a revolutionary hybrid model of treatment that combines the assessment aspects of a multidisciplinary assessment center, the experiential learning of an adventure program, and the therapy and classroom academics of residential treatment. For more information, please call (844) 601-1167.