Professionals will advise you to teach your child social skills. Here are just some of the common justifications:
1. Social skills helps your child to fit in
They justify this by saying your child will need to learn to fit in. When they say this they immediately presume that your child has an issue with “fitting in”. But people must be allowed in so that they can fit in. The focus needs to be on the duality of “fitting in”. We should really be teaching every child about Acceptance. Everyone has a right to be an equal part of their social world. Just because non-autistic people are the majority it doesn’t mean that Autistics have to be just like them to fit in.
If you applied this logic to the rest of your parenting then you’d insist your child wore make up to fit in, wore short skirts like their friends, drank alcohol or went along with everything their peers did so that they could “fit in.” But don’t we spend a lot of our time as parents telling our kids to make choices based on their own identities and personalities? Don’t we tell them not to follow what everyone else does? Aren’t we spending most of our time as parents hoping our kids don’t give into peer pressure?
So why are professionals advising you to train your child to give into peer pressure and be like everyone else? It really makes no sense when you apply it to similar parenting choices.
2. Your child has to learn how to communicate with others
There is an assumption that your child doesn’t know how to communicate. That’s actually how they describe and diagnose autism. But Autistic people have been telling professionals for decades that we don’t actually have deficits in communication. Dr Catherine Crompton and Sue Fletcher researched this and found evidence to support this. There is also a duality in communication. Communication is a two-way thing so why should your child do all the work? Shouldn’t others learn about Autistic Communication too?
3. Every child, Autistic or not must learn social rules
The “social rules” they talk about are rules that govern how non-autistic people interact and communicate. These social rules are non-autistic social rules. Sometimes parents think that these social rules mean manners but the rules go much deeper than that. An Autistic child can find eye-contact painful, too intense, intrusive or distracting. It is not part of our culture and communication. Yet non-autistic social expectations include making eye contact. This is not manners. This is forcing someone to do something that is painful or uncomfortable for them just to satisfy others.
Performing to please others just encourages masking It forces us to hide who we are, what we think, our natural expression, our movements and feelings just so that we don’t upset others with our Autistic ways.
4. Your child must learn to act like others so they won’t be bullied
Autistic communication and movement does not cause bullying. Rejection and ignorance cause bullying. Your child is Autistic so they are categorised as “different”, or as “other”. Bullies are going to bully them anyway whether they mask or not. Teaching kids acceptance, empathy and to show kindness is the answer. Teaching kids to please others will actually make them more of a target. Would you tell your red haired child to die their hair black so that they won’t get bullied? Would you tell your kid who is the tallest in their class to make themselves appear smaller so they won’t get picked on? Or would you teach them to have pride in who they are, to stand up to bullies and educate where there is ignorance. We can’t encourage kids to change who they innately are just so others will accept them. If we do then we send them a message telling them that they are not good enough as they are.
5. Your child will have a better future
Parents are often told that their child will benefit from social skills training but it can lead to masking and poor mental health. Social Skills Training was designed by non-autistic people who do not have an appreciation for Autistic communication. Can Autistic children be educated on non-autistic communication? Yes, but teaching like a foreign language like we do in our courses and training is quite different from teaching a child to mask who they really are. Our courses teach non-autistics about Autistic communication and teach Autistics about non-autistic communication because communication is a two-way thing.
Should non-autistic people learn about our communication? Absolutely! This is why I’ve designed activity books which teach the duality in communication. They help parents, practitioners and teachers to understand our way of communicating while also teaching Autistic kids about a language and culture that differs from ours.
Our courses and books are the very first of their kind written with an understanding and appreciation of Autistic Culture and Communication.