Everyone needs a healthy social life, but when a person has autism, it can be more challenging to develop a social life than for a neurotypical person. Although autistic people may have trouble picking up on social cues, they're just as vulnerable to the effects of social isolation as everyone else. In fact, prolonged social isolation can increase the risk of high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways for people with autism to improve their social skills and build healthy friendships. Today we'll discuss what it means to have autism and provide a few ways to improve social skills for autism.
What is Autism?
Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental condition that affects how a person experiences the world, their interactions with others, and how they think and feel. Since autistic people are considered 'neurodivergent,' their brains work differently than 'neurotypical' people.
Everyone with autism displays slightly different traits, but people with autism experience differences such as the following:
It is important to note that autism exists on a spectrum because every autistic person has an entirely different experience. Some autistic people need more support than others, and every autistic person exhibits different traits.
How to Develop Social Skills for Autism
People on the spectrum often struggle in social situations because they don't interpret social cues the same way a neurotypical person would. However, there are plenty of ways for autistic people to improve their social skills and form enriching social connections.
1. Invest in their Interests
People with autism develop hyper-fixations, meaning they become immersed in a single topic for hours. A hyper-fixation may last a week, month, or entire year, which is normal for people with autism. These hyper-fixations offer great opportunities for people with autism to develop better social skills.
For instance, if your autistic child is interested in plants, take them to public gardens and get them a few books on botany. Hyper-fixations give people with autism something to talk about with others.
2. Thoughts and Feelings Activities
Learning to recognize the thoughts and emotions of others helps people with autism navigate a neurotypical world. But developing social skills for autism can be frustrating and often impacts their ability to understand and recognize emotions in others. However, thoughts and feeling exercises can help people with autism develop their social skills.
A great exercise for children with autism is playing the "Face Game." During this game, you can help your child learn facial expressions by mimicking certain emotions and asking your child to mirror the feelings. Then, ask your child to name the emotion you represented. Simple exercises can enrich your child's social life for years to come.
3. Find Like-Minded Social Groups
As the old saying goes, everybody needs somebody sometimes! This is true for people with autism and neurotypical individuals because they can also experience the adverse effects of social isolation. There are plenty of ways to get social and come out of your shell. However, autistic people generally find it easier to make friends when the social group relates to a hyper fixation. The following group activities can be a great way to make friends:
Often, autistic people find social situations overwhelming or complicated, but interacting with like-minded people in a safe environment can have a lasting positive impact.
4. Role Play and Positive Reinforcement
Role-playing is integral to social skills training for people with autism because it allows them to familiarize themselves with different situations before they occur. In addition, role-play allows autistic people to manage any social anxiety they might have. You might role-play scenarios such as going on a date, ordering food at a restaurant, or checking out at the grocery store.
However, role-playing must be combined with positive reinforcement for people with autism to reap the full benefits. In simple terms, positive reinforcement is the process of recognizing, rewarding, and encouraging desired behavior.
5. Enroll in Groups with Specially-Trained Instructors
When a loved one has autism, it's challenging to help them manage their differences independently. While you can encourage them to enroll in any club, it's much easier to develop social skills for autism with the assistance of specially-trained instructors.
At Let's Go Fitness, we provide a welcoming environment where people with diverse abilities can get fit and develop their social skills with the guidance of adaptive fitness professionals. People with autism can connect with like-minded individuals online and get in the best shape of their lives!
Make the Most of Your Diverse Abilities with Let's Go Fitness!
At Let's Go Fitness, we strive to create a welcoming environment where you can make friends, get in shape, and have fun doing it! Our adaptive fitness specialists will guide you every step of the way. Whether you need accommodations, modifications, or simply an understanding listener, we'll help you reach your goals.
Are you ready to start your fitness journey? Contact Let's Go Fitness today to learn more about our membership packages!