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Autistic Teens and Social Skills

Autistic Teens A recent article on AOL News told of a story that touched this author’s heart. It was forwarded to me by my husband.

This story is about a program created for Autistic teens who need social skills developed and run by clinical psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson of the University of California, in Los Angeles. This program is for high-functioning autistic children and teaches them the ins-and-outs of friendships, including how to make one and keep one.

In addition to the workshops, there are weekly homework assignments, which include calling someone on the telephone or getting together with a new friend. A lot of people take these actions for granted but for those of us with Autism, just making a phone call can produce debilitating anxiety.

The program does something that most professional-run treatment programs do not: it includes parents. Parents must participate so that he or she can learn how to help his or her child through these situations, after the child graduates from the program. This is vitally important.

As quoted by article author Alicia Chang, “There isn’t much research on social group training that incorporates parents. That’s a key factor for success,” said Barbara Becker-Cottrill, who heads the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University. She has no connection with PEERS [the program], but has reviewed Laugeson’s research. “Parents are children’s first and probably best teachers.”

Parents know their children more than anyone else and are the ones that are better equipped at helping manage social situations outside of school or other structured social times. It is therefore imperative that parents know how to navigate this sticky situation, one that is filled with angst and anxiety even for those neurotypical teens.

Not every child will blossom into social butterflies. And it will not happen over night for any child, but learning what to do and how to do it, will help in the long run, over time. This type of program should be fostered internationally as it has the potential to be one of the most successful social training programs.


What has helped you become more social?

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0 thoughts on “Autistic Teens and Social Skills

  • @unboyfriendable@xanga –  In the wise words of my neighbor across the street.  “I thuroughly enjoy my own company”.  Not everyone is a social butterfly and if you are happy in your life with  just the few contacts you do have well then, good for you.  It does not have to classified as a dissorder, it could just be a choice, a way of life..   I know many people that have lots of “friends” and they are miserable.

    For the person who has a  desire to be social but has trouble with the give and take required to foster a friendlship a program for teaching social skills is an excellent idea.  These kinds of classes should be offered for kids who are painfully shy as well.  All and all it is a Great Idea!

  • Wow. That’s great! Once upon a time (Coincidentally right after we studied it in my Abnormal Psych class) I really thought I had some form of autism. I still might and just haven’t thought about it as of late. *Goes to google the symptoms of a high-functioning aspie again* Anyway, my thing is that I’ve kind of just accepted that I’m not a “people person”. Actually, I just “broke-up” (I don’t know how else to label it) with pretty much my only and closest friend of 14 years. No fight or anything, but I went away for the summer and realized that I reheally enjoyed not feeling obligated to hang out with someone frequently. So I decided to just stop answering her calls/text, and I guess she got the picture. And the bad thing is that besides a little guilt, I actually feel a great deal freer. I find that not being social enough only worries me when I hear people say things like, “Human are social creatures” and blah, blah, blah. Otherwise, I, honestly, don’t get lonely. But it’s that lack of desire for interpersonal relationships outside of my day-to-day activities and without any depression-like symptoms that makes me consider autism. Eh. But I really am glad that individuals who WANT to be social have this program to assist them in that endeavor. It’s awesomeness!

  • Anonymous

    I think that sounds like a really good program. I am not autistic, but I am a naturally shy person and I find it hard to relate to people. I get really stressed out when it comes to making new friends. It would be nice if they had a program like this for anyone who needs help with social skills.

  • hello,

    great going.

    good discussion.



    (tito dutta)

  • I am apart of something called the ARCh Youth Team. One of the many services we offer is an oppurtunity for kids with AND without disabilities to hang out and interact, as teenagers normally do. (There are kids with autism, but also with down syndrome, fragile x syndrome, ADHD, and other mental, cognative, or physical disabilities.) We play board games, visit museums, go to sporting events, watch movies, have sleepovers, etc. We also show the community how teens with disabillites are equally capable of giving back. (Planting trees, picking up trash in public parks…But most often, we visit a nursing home and with the residents, make gift baskets for families in homeless shelters.)

    Though obviously, it isn’t just the “participants” (as we call them) who benefit. “Volunteers”, such as myself, reap memories and lasting relationships. I would deffiantely say this has helped me to become more social.

    I’ve been apart of planning these events for the past three years. Recently, we recieved something called “The Peer Power” grant. Now, as well as the socials, we we will be teaching teens with AND without disabilities about post-graduation plans. Some will be attending universities, and others may investigate a place called the Minnesota Life College. Last, there will also be discussion about entering the workforce.

    ( )

  • I don’t think I’m autistic.. but it’s hard for me to make friends too. I don’t talk alot. Making phone calls are frightening to me. So I text more often than I make phonecalls.

    The only time i can make friends is when i dont have to make the first move, and just let some kind of situation give something for me to talk about with someone else. like for instance, if i had to share a locker with classmate, we’d become friends. but if someone wasn’t in anyway situated with me at all, then i wouldn’t bother trying to introduce myself to this person.

    it sucks being shy.

  • Anonymous

    Practice practice practice! Learning some new skills starting with “mimicry” and then learning to improvise has helped me a little. The biggest thing for me is being able to laugh at myself and not take my social gaffaws so seriously. I never see the line until I’ve crossed it! But when I do, I try to make it funny instead of dreadful, and learn from it.

    I can actually teach dance classes now! I don’t last very long at it before I feel myself becoming sullen and needing to shut down, but hopefully a little at a time, more and more, will help me improvise better. Being in control of things makes it more comfortable, but dancers are hard to control, lol.

    Having family and close friends that are willing to do a little “role play” to teach me helps a whole lot too. I imagine these classes use that too.

    Real friendships, though, I think are rare for even neurotypicals anymore. So much of it is online instead of face-to-face where it can really be called friendship.


  • i wish i had a program as such. I am not autistic but am a social disaster. I can’t make phone calls, i have no clue about the ins and outs of a friendship… so i always end up on the out. Its not for not wanting i just don’t know how. I am starting university in 10 days and am already terrified about the whole thing to the point of full blown panic attacks about encounters i haven’t even had yet. Terrified. I wish i had this… seriously.

  • Man I wish I could take some classes like that.
    I’m not autistic that I know of but sometimes I think I sure could use some help when it comes to social situations. I thought it was normal to get scared of making phone calls.
    And I think it’s REALLY great that they include the parents, I can think of few modern day education systems that work that way, ignoring the fact that it is healthy for the child.
    I guess autism can’t lie so they haven’t got much of a choice.

  • @lepton@xanga – I encounter this all the time through my son, who is also an Aspie, all the introductions go off smoothly but shortly after I am faced with a child who doesn’t understand why the children are rude and saying hurtful things to eachother. Or worse, hitting eachother and cussing. Then they start to pick on him when he removes himself from their bad behavior. I want him to lead as normal a life as possible but the caliber of manners in the children around us are no where near decent enough for a healthy interaction. I have to select and choose the few children who are capable of handling his differences without ridiculing him.

  • I’m an aspie and while I think this is a good program I’d say there is so much prejudice out there that teaching someone how to make a friend may be a fruitless exercise.  People out there are just so hostile.

  • In all honesty, Xanga/MySpace/Facebook, and chat/IM clients are the extent of my social life. It works for me. It’s how I socialize. 

    Before that I was a total recluse. No joke. 


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