Friends Are Important Too

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Current research indicates that social functioning is the only significant influence on level of romantic functioning in adolescents and adults with ASD, in itself dependent on learning from peers. This means that without a good level of social functioning (or peers to learn from), children with ASD may be left without even the foundation required for more complex romantic relationships.

Sexuality and Relationship Education (SRE) should never be taught in isolation. The intimacy of sexual relationships is not separate to the intimacy of social relationships. Good SRE will focus on teaching children about all the different kinds of relationships that can exist, starting initally with family and friendship. It will also be linked to a systemic and holistic social skills program that supports children in developing and maintaining social relationships.

As always, teaching should be positive in focus, respectful and empathic to inherent difficulties and individualised to the child. However, one important note on social skills programs: social skills will not develop or generalize unless the child is supported in developing these skills in the real world, through real world social situations. Worksheets in an isolated classroom do not a social skills program make.

References:

Stokes, M., Newton, N. and Kaur, A. (2007) Stalking, and social and romantic functioning among adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1969-1986.