Social interaction is an essential component of school life which is predominantly a peer focused group learning environment. Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often demonstrate individual differences within social interaction. However, every student with ASD is motivated to socialise with others on some level.
The difficulties with social interactions experienced by students with ASD may present as a barrier to accessing learning in the following ways:
- difficulties with recognising and using common social gestures and body language
- difficulties initiating social interactions with peers
- difficulties sustaining interactions with others and maintaining friendships
- a preference for learning social skills via routines, rules and repetition
- difficulties noticing, applying or responding to the 'unwritten' or 'grey' rules of social interaction such as knowing how to interrupt and appropriate conversation topics
- difficulties appropriately requesting equipment and turns within interactions and activities
- difficulties consistently using social greetings and following social routines such as lining up, waiting, sharing and turn-taking
- some need to participate in solitary or preferred tasks each day/session in order to maintain calm and regulate their emotions
- a significant delay in the development and application of Theory of Mind (ToM) concepts (the idea that others have individual thoughts, feelings and beliefs) and the concept that their behaviour has an effect upon others
- differences in motivation such as a preference to access favoured activities or items despite peers not sharing that same interest.