Children with autism have
deficits in language and social skills. They tend to keep to
themselves, and find it difficult to interact with others. Social skills
are important for work and independent living. They include non verbal
skills such as eye contact, body language, physical proximity, and also
verbal skills such as initiating a conversation, ending a conversation,
asking questions etc. Here are some ideas and strategies on peer
engagement and autism that can be used in Scout Unit.
Initially a lot of autism social
skills interventions were adult initiated. However, it has been
observed that when children with autism are around regular peers they
tend to imitate some social behaviors and pick up social skills. Thus an
inclusive classroom is a great place to start teaching social skills to
children with autism.
Teaching Scouts to
Interact with Children with Autism
Other scouts in the unit can be educated about autism, and can be
encouraged to interact with autistic scouts. Troop wide interventions
which include the non disabled Scouts have been found to be more
effective than interventions specific to scouts with autism.
Social skills groups have
been found to be effective for children with autism. Social skills
groups focus on teaching social skills like initiating conversations,
body language, simple conversation etc. Some of the areas that have been
covered in different studies are increasing proximity during play,
increasing social initiations, increasing social communication, showing
appropriate affective behavior and engaging in symbolic and socio
dramatic play. Social skills groups must be short, and allow time for
children to practice skills.
Scout Patrols or Dens provide a non
competitive and comfortable opportunity for scouts with autism to
practice social skills that they have learned. Scouts can be observed,
and feedback about their social skills can be given to their parents. Play groups
coupled with social skills training can be a very effective strategy to
improve peer interaction.