Let’s set aside our children’s challenges
for a moment and think about the optimal set of social skills we would want any
child to have and then work through the
framework set out above.
First, we lay out a goal: we want them
to behave in a way that is not disruptive
to their surroundings (assuming they are
in an age-appropriate situation). Next, we
determine how that outcome can be met
for a child without limitations. Church
services, story times, or children’s productions may require a child to have to
sit quietly and listen.
Now we consider our child’s specific
challenges. For many, attending a children’s production is too much sensory
overload and may not be a good starting
point. Perhaps start in a bookstore and
treat it like a library, or visit a library with
an isolated children’s section where a
child in training may receive more grace.
For us, it had to start at home. I took my
son into a guest bedroom so he would
associate a particular behavior with that
room. We worked up from there to the
children’s story time at the library and so
on. It wasn’t a fast process, but it wouldn’t
be fast in a school setting either.
It also wasn’t a serial process. I made
sure to tackle these “still and quiet”
skills—that were a significant struggle
for my son—once or twice each week,
leaving plenty of time for other skills.
He quickly learned how to give his order
to the man at the bagel shop and how to
greet the older men who liked to be there
between the breakfast and lunch rush
(when my son’s behavior would be less
disruptive to the business). At home, we
worked on modeling tone and wording,
often by “parrot method”, where I would
repeat the tone and wording until he
mimicked it back to me correctly.
Today, my son is a polite 12-year-old
young man who does not immediately
present as “impaired.” He’s exceeded
much of what was expected of him.
When you consider the research that
shows how teacher expectations drive
student performance, it’s understand-
able that a devoted parent with a set of
goals and access to a myriad of resources
and ideas to implement can take a child
further than he might ever go in a public
I encourage you to strongly consider
that homeschooling your spectrum child
might actually be the more productive
therapeutic route for his/her socialization skills.
Heather DeGeorge is a Jersey girl displaced
to the Midwest with her husband and
two small miracles. She maintains that
pumping gas is not for her and lakes with
waves are not oceans. Teacher-turned-homeschooler by days, coach and speaker
by nights and weekends, she blogs about
educating and connecting with children at
He couldn’t have had social skills training in any other setting
that would have better prepared him for the real world.