Do you remember the first day of kindergarten when you couldn’t hit the ball on the playground? Or, do you remember someone not wanting to be your friend because you couldn’t do what they could? Not feeling included or able to make friends is something that many people suffer through, including people with autism.
Meeting new people is hard for anyone, especially when you are vulnerable in some way to be judged. This article is meant to be an exploration on simple ways to teach kids how to communicate in order to create a more inclusive society for all. Because at the end of the day, we are all equal and we all have the ability to make the world a better place in our own special way.
It can be tough teaching a child with autism to make friends. However, here are 4 quick steps to start with that will be easy to understand.
1. Say Hello
The first cardinal rule of making new friends is the simple gesture of saying hello to your potential new friend. This lets the individual know that you want to know more about who they are and are open to communicating. If the other person responds, then you can ask them questions about what they like to play and if you like the same things, then you can play together. If the other person does not respond, then you can move on and talk to someone else. Sometimes, others don’t want to talk or play and that is ok because you can always try again later. When you say hello kindly and pleasantly, you might just make their day.
2. Ask Questions
Taking an interest in people is simply asking questions to learn more about them. The other person may stand out to you because they are wearing a favorite character you like on their clothes, they are playing with a toy or a game you like, or they look friendly to you because of their smile. We ask questions to find out what we have in common. When you ask someone new a question, the knowledge that you gain about them is something that you can use to enhance the conversation, which will make the other person feel included.
3. Give Compliments
When you meet someone and there is something that you genuinely like about them, say it. This lets the person know that they are valuable and special. Make sure to give the compliment as soon as you notice. Maybe the person is shy and they will be encouraged to give the compliment back, which is easier said than done for the timid.
4. Invitations to join in!
Including others is the best way to make people feel special and wanted. Extending invitations to join in promotes inclusion and friendship. Inviting people is the most important way to create inclusion. Most people don’t know that they deserve to be included. These are the ones who need that inclusion the most. Try hanging out with the person a few times and if they don’t fare out, then they’re not the right fit. It is highly likely that you will make unlikely friends if you follow these helpful guidelines.