Social skills are important in daily life and when they are impaired, the results can be emotionally devastating. Read on to learn how people with Asperger’s syndrome have poor social skills and what can be done to help them.
Asperger’s Syndrome and Social Skills
People with Asperger’s syndrome have pronounced weaknesses in social skills. These include the following:
• Lack of eye contact when conversing with a person.
• Inappropriate body language that includes standing stiffly or standing too close to another person.
• A strange way of speaking that can be off-putting to listeners.
• A tendency to monopolize a conversation and talk only about what interests them.
• They often get lost in a group conversation and find it extremely difficult to sort out who is speaking and follow the different threads of conversation.
• Language is interpreted literally and when figures of speech are used in a conversation, they are often not understood. For example, an expression such as, ‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth,’ will have the person thinking about a horse and wondering why you mustn’t look inside its mouth.
How can People with Asperger’s Syndrome Improve their Social Skills
People with Asperger’s syndrome can be helped to improve their social skills. Most methods involve the repetition of activities that teach the person to interact more normally. For these programs to be effective, they need to be reinforced on a daily basis by family members:
• Social skills training includes role-playing and modelling. The person with Asperger’s is taught by example how to start a conversation and how to use appropriate body language. Video feedback may be used to reinforce the concepts.
• In a school setting, it can be helpful to educate peers about Asperger’s syndrome and how it affects social interaction. If they understand that the lack of eye contact and other signs are not intentional, they can be more accommodating in conversation.
• Siblings can be a great help in teaching social skills. Because they are familiar with the person, they can be more blunt than a stranger and have the freedom to correct inappropriate behavior.
• Facial expressions can be taught by using flash cards. These show a person’s face and the goal is to identify what emotion they are feeling.
Although social interaction will never come naturally to a person with Asperger’s syndrome, they can learn to hold a conversation and improve their body language. By imitation and role playing, they can reach a place where they are able to hold a reasonable conversation and take turns in speaking.
The complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome , Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007