Social Skills Deficits and Asperger’s: How Parents Can Help

Father and child painting a pictureDeficits in social skills and communication are hallmarks of Asperger’s syndrome, a mental health issue on the autism spectrum. For children with Asperger’s, typical manners that are used in social interactions are not employed, making it difficult for such children to engage with peers. In the absence of manners, peers may become offended, leading to further social isolation and difficulties developing social skills.

One example is “Joey,” a 9-year-old boy with Asperger’s. Joey is bright and excels academically. However, when Joey meets a peer for the first time, he fails to make eye contact and begins asking the other child about Star Wars. Joey fails to ask important questions first, such as name or interests. As a result, Joey’s peers perceive him as odd and they do not actively seek him out for social activities.

Even though Joey’s intentions are good, his experiences with social interactions significantly hinder his growth and development. The problems that Joey experiences as a child will have implications for his cognitive, emotional, and social development over the long term. Because Joey has not learned basic skills for social interaction, he consistently fails to make important connections—hindering his growth, development, and relationships.

For many children with Asperger’s, social skills training and education is managed through schools via special education programs and support. If you’re a parent of a child with Asperger’s, there are things you can do to promote the development of social skills in your child.

One important activity is for parents to actively engage with the child in spontaneous conversation. During this process, parents should point out to the child the specific actions he or she is taking to help facilitate social interaction.

For instance, in a conversation with Joey, his father may say, “When I talk to you, I make eye contact so that you can see I am interested in what you are saying.” By pointing out the more subtle issues, parents can teach children some vital components of successfully interacting with their peers.

For parents, recognition of how Asperger’s impacts socialization is vital. Even though deficits in social interaction are quite pronounced for children with Asperger’s, the ability to learn is typically not impaired, making it possible for parents and educators to provide them with the skills they need. The challenge is to recognize where deficits are and provide opportunities for identifying needed skills, then practicing them. With patience and persistence, parents can help the child learn important social skills.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Michael Clatch, PsyD, therapist in Glenview, Illinois

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • vickie

    vickie

    December 18th, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    I think that a large part of this is for the parents to get involved and to really stay on top of things. These are the ones that the children get most of their cues form so if the parent makes a habit of doing something and working on the child with that then I think that there is a greater chance that it will stick with the child and show them that this is something that they should also try to emulate.

  • Lillian

    Lillian

    December 18th, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    The skills that a child does or doe snot learn when they are young are the ones that can either help them or hinder them fro a lifetime. We all have to be aware of this as parents and I suspect that parents of kids with children at any point on the autism spectrum must almost be doubly aware of this fact. These are kids that most of the time have to work even that much harder than the rest of us do to make friends, because what can be so natural to us can be quite the challenge for them.

  • JOANNA R

    JOANNA R

    December 18th, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    Have a brother with autism and when we were growing up mom and dad struggled to cope with his issues.Not only did they not know how to help him but struggle themselves as to how to handle and care for him.He is fine but the issues do show in his everyday life.I wish they had more support and education on the issue as well as how to handle it better to not just make it easier for themselves but to also help my brother have a better rest of the life!

  • champ

    champ

    December 19th, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    We sometimes overlook some of the real needs that these children have- we see the big picture but often have a hard time remembering that there are going to be other things that they need from us as well to make their overall quality of life that much better

  • Locke

    Locke

    December 20th, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    Being that I am not at all familiar with Aspergers is it that the social skills are actually lacking, never learned, or just that the person does not know when it is appropriate to employ them

  • ella

    ella

    December 21st, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    To be the parent of a child on the autism spectrum would take so much love and patience. To think that you have to practice things with your child that would generally come so naturally to others could be a bit overwhelming. I am glad that there seems to be a lot of information and support out there for them now because I am sure that years ago parents of those with these symptoms had to feel lost in that they were often going at this so alone.

  • Cynthia B.

    Cynthia B.

    December 23rd, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    Does being around other children when they have Asperger’s tend to help or hurt their social developmental skills?

  • Tracy

    Tracy

    December 27th, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    It helps them. My son is 10 with it. He has made a lot of progress.

  • kellen

    kellen

    December 25th, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Terrible for the children who desperately want to have real friends but seriously lack the ability to make or keep them,.

  • Carlene

    Carlene

    December 26th, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Parents, you will always be the very first people that your children learn from and the most important people that they have in their lives to reinforce what is appropriate behavior and what is not.
    It is always important, and maybe even more important with these children, to remember this, be aware of the impact that you have on their lives and to consistently reinforce the behavior that you would like for them to personify.

  • jaxon

    jaxon

    December 27th, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    I would have to imagine if there is any kind of group support available that many families could benefit form that

  • Doug

    Doug

    December 28th, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    Are special education or self contained classroom settings really the best answer for any child with any sort of mental disability? I know that it could be “easier” but is easy always the right answer?

    I suppose that much of this is all about who you ask and in what setting we are talking about, but I think that for many it has to be about giving them a realistic chance to succeed in the real world mixed in with with everyone of all types and abilities, and does the self contained environment generally foster that?

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