How to Help Your Special Needs Teen/Adult Make Friends, Make Contacts, or Date
Updated: Aug 18
If you’re the parent of a special needs individual (school-aged, or full grown) then you might worry about how to help your child make friends, make contacts or even get into a relationship. Especially with individuals on the spectrum, social skills “know-how” could be a problem. I had the same issue with my own son (who is now 18)—he was bullied in middle school and I felt powerless to do anything about it. There weren’t any good social skills groups close to our area when he was younger, but today there is the PEERS® evidence-based social skills programs, developed by UCLA in 2005, and certified providers who can help your teen or young adult learn how to navigate the social scene. I am one of the certified providers, with dual certification as a PEERS® Young Adult social skills provider and a PEERS® Telehealth Certified Provider. To learn more, contact me (free 1Hr consultation) at www.TutorPaulaBCBA.com/contact.
How do we start to help our special needs child with social skills? You may not realize this, but sometimes our advice as parents is not as helpful as we may think to our child. Such as, telling him/her to just go up and introduce himself to someone in order to make contacts/friends. Or when your child asks, how do you know when someone likes you, and you may answer that it’s a good feeling you get from that person. The great thing about the training at PEERS® on social skills is that they enumerate and specify the ways to go about approaching a person, approaching/getting accepted into a group that is talking together, and even how to read/look for the behavioral cues to know if one is accepted or not. For those individuals who are rule-oriented, the PEERS® program is perfect, as they list many “rules” for things such as how to ask out a person on a date, how to accept rejection, even how to begin a get together (ex: when the person comes to the door, and you open it and talk to your guest, remember to step aside to let them in!). There are many things individuals on the spectrum follow literally, which makes it harder for them to fit in or learn social cues. Again, the PEERS® programs address these issues beautifully, and I feel confident these methods can help your child/adult individual.
Another great thing about the PEERS protocol for teaching social skills is that it involves training the parents/caregivers as well. There are social coaches selected by the participant who will help the individual carry out and practice what is learned. The social coaches are the key piece that is missing from most other social skills group formats. If you think about it, it makes sense to involve someone to help the individual practice how to initiate conservations, to give feedback on things, and to generally encourage the individual—in other words, to do what most of us parents have already been doing all along, but now with a better road map for helping our child. It’s really empowering to know you can help your child grow and learn how to become better at making and keeping friends, or how to date.
If you are interested in learning more about the type of social skills programs I can use to help your child or older special needs individual, please contact me to set up a FREE 1hr chat at www.tutorPaulaBCBA.com/contact. I have 25 years experience working both in tutoring and behaviorally with special needs individuals, including working with my own son (ASD/ADD/ODD) whom I helped grow from a child who did not look at us, walk, chew, talk (until 4 and then it was 2yrs echolalia) or interact appropriately with others, into a now independent 18-year-old HS senior who drives twice a week to see his girlfriend of over 6 months and will be attending college in the fall. I have worked with adults with special needs both in residential group homes and in push-in situations (the individual lives on his/her own with push-in supports), and I also tutor special needs adults in reading, math, comprehension. I have also supervised and ran social skills groups for middle schoolers/teens, and have worked with both parents and young children on social skills issues. I would love to hear from you and help you address your child or adult’s particular social skills needs—contact me here (www.tutorPaulaBCBA.com/contact) for a FREE 1hr consultation so we can start teaching your child how to make and keep the social connections which will enrich his/her life!