Socialization: An Important Life Skill

Nadia Shanab | Uncategorized
16 May 2013

As an educator, I try to keep the following two main goals as a top priority when working with spectrum kids.



Academics are very important to be taught. But life skills are most important. Children grow up very quickly. Time flies, and soon the elementary grader becomes a teenager and soon after a highschool graduate. Working on behavior issues is a basic request form parents and educators, that should be geared toward independence and integrating into a community.

Spectrum individuals need their community more than anyone else. To be part of a community and able to get help and support from it, takes some effort on our part as parents and educators.


A very high-functioning autistic student was attending a mainstream class where she was doing a great job in all subjects. One of the customs in this mainstream class was to celebrate students’ birthdays by writing a birthday card/letter with little drawings. Given the fact that this students doesn’t like to interact with any other student in her mainstream class, she never managed to bond with any of the students.

Here is our dialogue as I tried to convince her to write a letter:

Me: Tell me Janny, what are you going to write to Lili in her birthday letter?

Student: Who is Lili?

Me: How come you don’t know Lili? It has been months now you are coming to her class. Look, she is the one wearing the pink shirt and pink hairband overthere (I was pointing out the girl in question).

Student: I don’t know her, I am not friends with her, we never talked, and I have nothing to do with her.

Me: It doesn’t matter! You don’t have to be friends with her. It’s her birthday and you can write her a short note and make a simple drawing.

Student: I don’t care about her, why would I wish her anything?

Me: You have things in common. She is your classmate, she is sometimes in your group activity, you do projects together, and you are supposed to help eachother out.

Student: I don’t need help. I only ask teachers for help.

Me: Okay Janny, you are still going to write “Happy Birthday Lili” and draw a candle or a balloon. This is an assignment that you’ll be accounted for.

Student: Okay fine, but she is not my friend.

Me: You are making a good choice Janny! Remember that your birthday is coming up soon. You’ll be so happy to receive birthday wishes from Lili as well as the rest of your classmates.

Her eyes shone, and soon her resistence and inflexibility subsided. She wrote the birthday card and made a nice drawing.

It is a fact that spectrum people are so honest and always tell the truth. However, lacking social skills scares people away. Children need to be trained from a very age to communicate and interact with the outside world and their community. Don’t give up parents and educators. Insist on envolving the children in social occasions. Teach them to offer help and ask for help. This exchange takes training, effort and time.

  • Teach the child to use the basic ‘magic’ words: “Please”, “Thank you and you are welcome”, “Excuse me”, and “Sorry”.
  • Tell her that saying sorry is good for both people. Strong people apologize.
  • Widen the child’s social network.
  • Create opportunities to make the child meet and talk to new people.
  • Help the child share an activity, or  interact with people. For example: games, sports, art projects, chorus…
  • Organize trips, outings, sleepovers, go to a park…

Isolating the child from her social environment to protect her from getting her feelings hurt is a big mistake.

Life is about interaction, exchange, communication, give and take.

It is never enough to emphasize the importance of teaching social skills to spectrum kids. It will make their life much easier and happier. It also help improve speech and eye contact.

Social skills can be aqcuired like any other skill. It is a matter of time. Work hard on it now, so you can have the peace of mind tomorrow.

Remember to reward the child everytime she takes an initiative or even attempts to socialize.

nadia shanab

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