April 02, 2021
When a child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), they can struggle with building connections and friendships. While every child with autism is different with unique needs, there are many ways to improve relationship-building for siblings and friends.
1. Learn About Their Sensory Needs
The majority of children who have ASD have difficulties with various sensory issues, which is anything impacting sight, sound, taste, touch or smell. When you or your child interacts with someone who struggles with sensory sensitivities, it is important to be mindful of how you can help them feel more comfortable and at ease.
Some good areas to focus on are how the child communicates, how much information they can take in at a time, ways transitioning from place to place can be easier for them and environmental factors such as noise, light and movement. Talking to the child’s parent can help as you consider what activities the kids are participating in and how they are interacting.
2. Find Out Their Interests
Children who have ASD tend to have a specific interest they enjoy. They will hone in on and learn everything there is to know about a particular topic – which could be elevators, elephants or anything in between. A key to bonding is talking about what they are interested in, and taking opportunities to focus on it.
Look for ways to pull friends or siblings into whatever they love so that they can find a commonality. That could mean catering to an interest by exploring the city for new elevators, but also stopping along the way for ice cream or treat the other kids would enjoy while on the adventure.
3. Look for Things You Have in Common
Teaching your child to be a friend to someone who has autism is no different from teaching them to be a friend to anyone else. Finding and embracing commonalities rather than focusing on differences builds relationships. If your child does ask about differences, it is healthy to explain how everyone is unique. The key is to be kind and inclusive even though there are differences.
Arkansas Children’s offers a wide variety of behavioral health services tailed to kids on all points of the autism spectrum. If your child has been diagnosed with autism and you are looking for helpful resources, visit archildrens.org/autism.