Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Asperger’s and Social Skills – What to do When at a Friend’s House
When you have Asperger’s, social skills are important. There are many things one must learn to be able to be successful in the social world.
Perhaps you or your child strikes up a conversation with someone and manages to get an invite to someone’s house to hang out or have dinner. What is it important to know in this situation?
While this may seem intuitive to someone without Asperger’s or high functioning autism, it can be very challenging for someone with Asperger’s. There are so many hidden rules for social etiquette. Here are some tips you can share with your child:
Asperger’s and Social Skills – Find out Ahead of Time
Ask your host if it will be a dinner party, a gathering to play games and watch TV, or so on. Ask if you need to bring anything special (i.e. a swimsuit if you’re going swimming, a warm coat if you will be going outside in the winter.) If food will be involved, ask if you can contribute anything.
These social skills are often expected but not often clear to people with Asperger’s or high functioning autism.
Asperger’s and Social Skills – Disclose any Special Needs you have
For example, if you’re allergic to something or you have panic attacks around certain stimuli, certain types of music, other things that make you distressed.
If you need some time alone when you’re there, and you think it might look awkward, let the host know beforehand.
If the host can avoid these things, it will save a lot of awkwardness if the triggering event happens and you have a meltdown in front of everyone. Plus, the host most likely wants all of their guests to be happy.
Asperger’s and Social Skills – Contribute to the Conversation
This is perhaps the most important one.
You don’t need to be the life of the party. But someone who talks now and then, makes other people laugh or at least laughs with them is much more likely to be perceived as an enjoyable person than someone who just sits there and does and says nothing all night.
Your friend or host invited you there to get to know you or at least to interact with you, so that’s what you should do.
Asperger’s and Social Skills – How do I Interact with Others?
Some people are naturally shy, or anxious, and find it very hard to think of things to say in groups or even during one on one conversation. Others have something to say but find it hard to break into the conversation. Learning how to contribute to a conversation is a very important Asperger’s social skill to learn.
If you can’t think of anything to say, try to use associative thinking. Pay attention to the topic of the conversation. What is it? Have you ever experienced anything like they are talking about in your life before? How did the experience feel? Add to the conversation by saying, “That happened to me when…”
For example, say a group of friends are discussing roommate problems. “My roommate is a control freak!” says one. “My roommate gets really uptight over how many showers I take,” says another. Try to think of a roommate story to add to the conversation. If possible, make it funny.
If the topic is current events, add on whatever you know about the issue, or ask questions. “Why did that happen? What will happen now? I bet those people felt…”
If someone asks you a question, try to respond with more than a one word answer. For example, “So, I hear you moved to a new apartment?” You may think that “Yes” will simply suffice, but the person wants to hear more about the apartment and your life in it.
Always keep thinking “How I can add more details to what I’m saying?” This will make you feel more connected to those around you, and them to you.
This doesn’t mean you should monopolize the conversation, but do it just enough so there is a growing connection between you and the other people there.
Asperger’s and Social Skills – Don’t Zone out with an Iphone or a Book
It’s rude and signals that you are not interested in the conversation or activity going on.
If you need sensory breaks or to be alone for a bit, best to inform the host of this before you arrive so that your absence doesn’t come as a surprise.
This is a social skill that even people without Asperger’s or high functioning autism often have trouble with, but it is always a good one to know.
Asperger’s and Social Skills – Help with Chores
At the end of the activity if the dishes need to be cleared from the table, or the host needs help cleaning up, pitch in. The host can’t be responsible for doing everything.
Asperger’s and Social Skills – If you Mess Up, be sure to Apologize After
If you lose your temper or react very strongly to something that happens be sincere and say, “I am sorry I (explain what happened). I know it made you feel (try to take their perspective and imagine how it made them feel.) Your friendship is really important to me and I wouldn’t want to damage it (they might not realize this, so this is a good thing to say if you feel like this).”
A well written or composed apology can smooth over many things. Of course it is better to try not to do things that would require an apology in the first place, because only so many will be accepted.
Asperger’s and Social Skills – Show Enthusiasm and say Thank You
While, again, we’re not asking you to be the life of the party, try to show enthusiasm now and then so your host knows you are having a good time.
People in general don’t like people they can’t read. They get insecure and think it reflects on them if you’re not having a good time – which you very well might be, but they don’t know that unless you say so.
Be sure to thank them for inviting you afterwards. When having Asperger’s, some of these social skills can seem confusing and unimportant, but they will make a difference.
Asperger’s and Social Skills – Don’t Monopolize the Conversation
Most of these tips have been geared towards those with Asperger’s and high functioning autism who don’t tend to talk at all or very much.
But if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, as many are, monitor what you say. Say about three or four sentences, wait to see if there is a response, wait for that person to finish, then say another three or four sentences.
Only continue if the person shows interest. “Showing interest” means they say something that adds directly onto your topic, indicating they are interested. Or it may mean raised eyebrows or an enthusiastic tone of voice.
If no one replies, sit back and wait a few minutes. Let the conversation go where it will. Wait until the next time you can add on something that is directly related to what has come up.
If there is a break in topics- and you want to start one- THINK beforehand, “What would interest this group?” and try to go with that. Again, keep it short.
As you get to know people more, you will understand better what interests them and what topics are appropriate or not.
With these tips, we think you will find useful information about Asperger’s and social skills, particularly about how to be successful when invited to a friend’s house.
For information on autism treatments and therapies read the Craig Kendall book, New Hope for Autism