HOW TO START, CARRY ON AND END CONVERSATIONS
How can parents support their ASD adolescent sons and daughters?
- After your son or daughter has been in a social situation which did not go as well as expected, or has said or done something inappropriate in front of others, explain why the behaviour was wrong/offensive, and teach a more acceptable alternative. Your teenager may not yet be able to understand that other people have different viewpoints to them. Impaired theory of mind is common to autism spectrum disorder.
- Be patient with the repetitive nature of your child’s special interest. Help them to channel it into something constructive and even professional. For example, if they are interested in dogs, help them offer to work casually walking other people’s dogs, encourage them to visit an animal shelter or do work experience with a veterinarian.
- Help them make friends by finding people with common interests. These people may be older or younger.
- This is for teenage boys. Most autistics prefer the company of adults because they have difficulty relating to their peers. It is possible that a teenage boy might find himself becoming attracted to the teenage daughter of an adult he knows.
- Because he has difficulty relating to his peers, if he falls in love with the girl (who may well reject him), he might expect her to treat him as if they were husband and wife.
- The boy needs to be told that teenage girls have different priorities. This was my experience, which resolved itself in my early 20s.
Ideas on starting conversations
The ‘scripts for thinking’ in my book use the 65 simplest words in all languages to teach the teenager what to think and say in given social situations.
The teenager should role play using the scripts with an adult, test it out in real life situations (for example at school), and evaluate the results.
Here are the script headings in order to summarise the contents:
- Someone you trust is bullying you
Where somebody you assume is your friend bullies you.
- Telling the teacher what happened
Reporting the incident to a teacher.
- Telling someone else how you feel
Confiding in somebody about how you responded to what happened.
- Talking to a friend
Having a conversation with a friend.
- Meeting up with someone you haven’t seen for a while
What to say when you catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a long time.
- Wanting to do something friendly with someone you don’t know well
Getting to know somebody a bit better.
- Changing the topic of conversation
Learning to shift the topic while in conversation.
- Beginning a conversation
Starting a conversation, especially with someone your age.
- Keeping a conversation going
Maintaining a conversational flow between you and the other person:
- Joining in a conversation with other people
How to join a conversation with two or three other people and not interrupt.
- Ending a conversation
Finishing a conversation in an appropriate way.
- Getting priorities right from the start
Knowing to complete homework/household tasks before leisure activities.
- Being considerate of others
Knowing when and who you can talk to about your special interests.
- Dealing with the unexpected
Understanding why something happened which you did not expect (for example, drinks freezing in the fridge because the setting is too low).
- Pretending to be another ‘me’
Pretending to be a fictional character to get into the minds of others to try to understand them.
- Figuring out how animals behave
Understanding why some breeds of dog will bite, or why magpies swoop, so you can avoid them attacking you.
- Doing things for recreation
Enjoying doing activities on your own, and doing them well.
- Escaping from real life
Imagining living in the past or future because the present causes you stress.
- Learning about things my own way
Reading and researching topics on your own to better understand them.
- Dealing with frustration
Understanding why somebody or something won’t do what you expected them to do.
Thinking differently can be a problem:
- Coping with the effects of thinking differently from how others think
Understanding that the different style of thinking has advantages and disadvantages
- Taking longer to process information
Knowing that you take a bit longer to analyse and understand information, and making allowances for it.
- Identifying relevant information
Understanding clearly what someone else has requested you to do, or finding relevant information in a passage of text.
- Being mindful (or staying in the present)
Staying in the moment and remember......
Painful or embarrassing memories are just words and mental images, NOT reality