To the parents of an autistic child, it may come as no surprise that teens ‘on the spectrum’ tend to be less socially developed and active than neurotypical teens; and why, overall, social skills in teens on the spectrum tend to be weaker overall than those exercised by their peers. And as part of a University of California study, it was indeed found that neurotypical teens anticipated social rewards more strongly than their autistic peers with ASD.
Both internal and external forces may be responsible for these differences; indeed, teens on the spectrum may find themselves dealing with decreased social motivation and increased sensory overload.
The social motivation hypothesis suggests that ASD kids are not generally rewarded through social interactions, and therefore may lack sufficient motivation to interact at all.
The sensory over-responsivity theory, by contrast, states that ASD kids interpret sensory cues at a greater rate of intensity; thus propelling them to shy away from overwhelming social interactions.
Enhancing social skills for teens on the spectrum
If you wish to advance and enhance social skills in teens on the spectrum, then here are a few ideas:
- Introduce your teen to social groups and clubs aimed specifically toward autistic youth. Your teen’s teacher or therapist may be able to recommend a group based at a local school, hospital or therapy facility, specifically geared toward ASD kids. Here your teen will be able to meet others like them, and in a calm, controlled environment especially designed for young people with their condition.
- Encourage your teen to be open with others regarding their ASD status, and to explain its traits to teachers and students alike. You yourself might wish to visit your teen’s classrooms and deliver informational programs about ASD. If your kid’s classmates come to understand their situation, then they may not be as likely to avoid, mock or feel ill at ease around them.
- Encourage your ASD teen to invite their friends home for games, movies, and parties; this is an ideal way to develop social skills in teens on the spectrum. Your teen may feel more comfortable interacting with peers on their home turf; a place they feel comfortable, where their environment is controlled and monitored and they are not as likely to feel frightened or overwhelmed.
Seven Stars can help
Seven Stars is a comprehensive therapy program aimed toward students coping with verbal or nonverbal learning disorders; giving them the opportunity to learn, practice skills, and build awareness, mindfulness and self-efficacy. For more information, call 844-601-1167.
Since 2003, Dr. Gordon Day has passionately helped young people with a wide range of family, emotional, social, neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems. Gordon’s mission has been to help people find their strengths and their own passion for living a full and rewarding life. He is particularly sensitive to the pressures, frustrations and disappointments that adolescents face that can sometimes cause them and their loved ones to want to withdraw and throw their hands up in despair.
Dr. Day knows that you really have to understand where a student is coming from and understand their patterns of strengths and needs. When we truly know an individual and their struggles, only then can we truly help.
Dr. Day has pioneered the use of outdoor therapy activities and outdoor living as a dynamic and effective therapeutic tool for learning, confidence building and skill building. His programs provide effective, supportive and encouraging environments that help students find their strengths and power.