Archive for May 29th, 2008

Autism and Social Behavior

Social skills deficit is thought by many to be the key defining feature of autism. Numerous reports written by parents and researchers describe this challenge. However, like other characteristics of autism, social skills is on continuum for these children, they all face different challenges with social skills.

Some children with autism may avoid virtually all forms of social interaction.  They might have tantrums or run away when someone tries to interact with them. As infants, they may arch their back from a caregiver to avoid contact. Other children with autism might appear socially indifferent because they do not seek social interaction with others (unless it is for a specific need). These chidlren do not seem to mind being with people; but at the same time, they do not mind being by themselves. Other children with autism may try very hard to have friends, but they have a difficult time knowing how to get and maintain relationships. This challenge is common among those with Asperger Syndrome. One reason for their failure to make enduring social relationships with others may be the lack of reciprocity in their interactions, since their conversations often revolve around themselves and their own interests.

Recent research shows that many individuals with autism do not realize that other people have their own thoughts, plans, and points of view.  Researchers term this as “theory of mind.” These individuals also appear to have difficulty understanding other people’s beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. As a result, they may not be able to anticipate what others will say or do in various social situations, making social situations very challenging for them.

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