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Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder can struggle with a variety of social difficulties. The hallmarks of Autism include challenges with communication and social engagement as well as compulsions to repeat specific patterns and behaviors. Those with ASD often feel most secure when engaged in planned social interactions that have clear guidelines and perimeters. These individuals need clear expectations to avoid feeling agitated and disoriented. Unfortunately the uncertainties and diversity of life do not always allow for this type of social engagement Therefore, it is important to prepare for the improbability of life and develop a plan for impromptu encounters and difficult moments.
Follow these 3 rules to avoid the social pitfalls of ASD:
- Plan your response: Use the R.E.S.P.O.N.D. acronym to help guide you through difficult situations. Respond with:
- Expressed optimism – a smile or kind facial expression
- Safety in mind – no offensive language
- Positive outlook
- Outcome in mind – Try to end the encounter well
- No Negativity
- Deliberately exchange – Work to make eye contact
- Ask friends and family to assist you. Invite loved ones to help you overcome and avoid difficult situations by asking them to roleplay with you, acting out new and unknown social possibilities and practicing various responses. Simply practicing for social situations can have an extremely positive impact on daily communication!
- Lead with your strengths: Offering to serve others through your skillfulness and strength almost always results in the development of a positive relationship and/or social interaction. Acts of service demonstrate value and the desire to be valued is a basic human need.
Navigating the school environment with ASD can be troublesome. Having the right support in place is essential to ensure success. ASD evaluation and identification can be completed by a medical doctor or psychologist. The social demands of the academic environment can create stress and anxiety.
The DREAM approach helps reduce stress and ensure a mind-body balance:
- Diet: Eat well, food is fuel
- Rest: Offer your mind rest, try to sleep 6-8 hours a day
- Exercise: Move, feel, stretch, enjoy
- Activity Outdoors: The earth is beautiful
- Mindfulness: Focus on your body at the moment and practice gratitude