The other week I read a really interesting article on The Conversation website, entitled: ‘Children with autism shouldn’t be forced to socialise’.
The gist of the article is that by making children with autism integrate into social situations and then rewarding then for doing so is simply trying to make them fit into our neurotypical (NT) world.
I found this interesting on many different levels, although I only agreed with part of this argument.
Should children be made to socialise? Well, no, they should never be made to do something they do not want to do. But should they be encouraged to do so and be given opportunities for socialisation with peers?
Yes, this I feel is important. We live in a social world and although we need to consider each child’s individuality, giving them opportunities to interact with others, both autistic and NT, is important.
The article would argue that we are training these children to fit into our NT world, but I feel it is how we approach this matter that is of importance.
As already mentioned, no child should be forced to do something they feel uncomfortable with.
For example, being made to make eye contact.
I went to our local peer support group, AOK, at Firbank Children’s Centre and this article came to mind while I watched my two boys playing and having fun with water, mud and bikes.
Children with (and without) additional needs all played together, as children do. I had not forced my child to ‘socialise’, he had the option of attending and wanted to.
While there he had pretty much free rein. He could sit and have snack if he wanted to, join in with song time at the end and play alone if he wished to do so.
None of this interaction was forced, it was optional. So the opportunity for socialisation was there. That’s the difference I feel.
We do live in a socially craving world and should be respectful of everyone’s need to be social or not social. But we must provide opportunities and encourage out children to be active members of society.