Social Considerations for Individuals with Autism in Physical Activity and Recreation Programs
Individuals with autism typically socialize differently than individuals without autism. They may demonstrate difficulty in perceiving other people's needs, thoughts, and feelings, or they may assume the literal meaning of words rather than deciphering subtle social cues and gestures. Maintaining a conversation can be a challenge for individuals with autism as their interest in other people may be reduced by a preference to be alone. Maintaining eye contact can also be difficult due to sensory stimulation, but this is not always the case. Social communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is impaired in individuals with autism; therefore, group dynamics and cooperation may be difficult as social skills, and social cues are needed for appropriate interactions. Since social interaction skill development is often a significant concern for individuals with autism, it is very important to teach social skills during physical and recreational activities, which typically include social components. Social stories -- stories written for an individual with autism to learn how to handle challenging or new social situations -- have shown positive results (Gray, 1996). Because social skills are developed throughout a person's life and are necessary for social interaction, developing friendships and social relationships, incorporating social skills teaching and providing opportunities to practice these skills is necessary for lifelong skill attainment.