Children with autism should be given opportunities to socialise

Last week I read a really interesting article from The Conversation and reprinted here on Autism Daily Newscast, entitled: ‘Children with autism shouldn’t be forced to socialise’.

The gist of the article is that children with autism should not be made to ‘socialise‘ and that by making these children integrate into social situations and then rewarding them for doing so, is simply trying to make them fit into our neurotypical (NT) world. I found this interesting on many different levels, although I only agreed with part of this argument.

Should children be made to socialise?

Well no, they should never be made to do something that they do not want to do. But should they be encouraged to do so, and be given opportunities for socialisation with peers? Yes, this I feel is important. We live in a social world, and although we need to consider each child’s individuality, giving them opportunities to interact with others, both Autistic and NT is important. The article would argue that we are training these children to fit into our NT world, but I feel that it is how we approach this matter that is of importance. As already mentioned, no child should be forced to do something that they feel uncomfortable with. For example being made to make eye contact.

Today I went to our local peer support group, AOK, at Firbank Childrens Centte in Lancaster, and this article came to mind while I watched my two boys playing and having fun with water, mud and bikes. Children with (and without) additional needs all played together, as children do. I had not forced my child to ‘socialise‘, he had the option of attending and he wanted to. While there he had pretty much free rein. He could sit and have snack if he wanted to, join in with song time at the end, and he could play alone if he wished to do so. None of this interaction was forced, it was optional. So the opportunity for socialisation was there. That’s the difference I feel.

We do live in a socially craving world. Some of us are more social than others, including those not on the autistic spectrum. We should be respectful of everyone’s need to be social or not social. But we must provide opportunities and encourage our children to be active members of society. However as equally important is the fact that NT’s need to learn more about autism and how to interact with individuals on the spectrum. They need to understand why they may behave the way in which they do.

Opportunities should be made available for our autistic children to learn the social skills of life.