The Importance of Relating to Others
Attending to caregivers, peers, siblings, and educators is important because so many opportunities to learn new skills and obtain information about the world in which the child with autism spectrum disorder operates are lost if fundamental attention and observational skills are lacking. If children with autism do not attend to others and imitate the behavior of others (Rogers & Williams, 2006), they do not learn the subtle social cues, or how to do the culturally relevant “social dance” with others (Hart & Risley, 1999).
Social skills are important for functioning within a society. Lack of knowledge of how to interact with others or which behaviors are tolerated in a specific context can lead to individuals being asked to leave classrooms or resign from jobs. Lack of social skills may result in placement in schools that are restricted from classmates and peers.
Most cultures value social skills and many people believe that relationships, including friendships, enrich the quality of life. This belief may not be held by some individuals with autism spectrum disorders who find social interaction uncomfortable or unpleasant. However, prior to assuming that learners with autism spectrum disorders do not want to have friends, it is important to assure that they have the skills to develop friendships so that they can truly make a choice regarding the extent of their social relationships. By targeting foundational social skills, educators can assist learners with ASD to obtain the skills necessary for functioning in a social world and give them the skills to choose social relationships with others.
Some individuals with autism spectrum disorders are interested in social interaction and participation in activities with peers and community members (Mesibov et al., 2004). Some choose to get married. In the area of social skills, similar to other domains, it is important to individualize any goals and programs.
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