Autistic children and adults face unique challenges within social interactions. Social mentoring therapy can be a powerful instrument to help children and adolescents better understand and navigate the social challenges of life and create ways to gain mastery over them. It can be provided through effective parent-child therapy as well as through professional therapists. Mentoring can be accomplished in arranged, structured setting and as mentoring progresses environments included typical situations.
There is not a concrete, one-size-fits-all way to mentor autistic children and adolescents. Success is found in tailoring a mentorship to each child. Creating a plan that empowers a child to discover their strengths within their challenges, maintaining a positive communication and mentoring approach, and considering at each step how to translate the skills into life in general can greatly help autistic children and adolescents learn social awareness and build skills that will support relationships and day-to-day life.
5 Helpful tips on creating a successful framework for social mentoring:
- Use clear, step by step instructions. It is not enough to cue your child to and expect them to follow through with the instruction start to finish. For example, to say “Try introducing yourself and have a conversation with John” will not be effective. A social mentor to autistic children and adolescents must consider the specific parts to starting a conversation with John. These may include: do we have a positive greeting? Is it the appropriate time to start a conversation? Do I have a topic of interest?
- Involve your child. A vital part of social mentoring is to give child ownership over the process. And to engage from the beginning. It is important to ask them what they think their challenges are, and find out where they have concern. Most often they have thought a great deal about it. It is not helpful to single out their triggers; rather lead them to a self-discovery of them.
- Know your child, join your child. Understand how your child may learn. Do they need a kinesthetic approach (through touch and movement), auditory (hearing), or visual (seeing)? The time you spend discovering which way, or combination of ways, they learn, will be well spent and as the mentor, you can build your approach to accommodate this effectively. And it will be much more enjoyable for your child.
- Know the environment. It can go without saying that mothers of autistic children are always aware of environments. In a mentoring situation, plan ahead so you are well aware of the dynamics of the environment. For example, if you were going to work with a child on turn-taking, engaging them in an interactive game with trained adults would be very different than allowing an opportunity to play that same game with other autistic or non-autistic children. Anticipating and creating an environment is more effective in the first stages of social mentoring.
- Generalize. The goal of social mentoring for autistic children and adolescents is to help them to become more independent in their use of learned, pro-social skill sets. Because these skill sets eventually will be voluntary behaviors that benefit others, it is important to be patient through the process as it takes time. Although we begin with specifics, the hope is to teach universal skills, where the mentor is not present, and the child is successful in the larger environment.
The Autism Society
The Austism Society is one such organization that provides support and education through its programs, and through many volunteer work hours, to achieve its mission of helping all those affected by autism. You can help them continue to do so by donating through the Donate A Car Can I really donate my car to charity? Donating to this powerful cause couldn’t be easier! Your car is picked up and hauled away with no charge to you! Learn more at www.DonateACar.com.