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Autism & Social Isolation

For young adults, being different from others can make life difficult, and a recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders highlights how socializing can be especially hard for those with autism. Lacking the friendships and peer relationships that help more typical teens bridge the gap following high school, young adults with autism face some unique challenges.  According to this study, young adults with an autism spectrum disorder are far less likely to receive invitations or phone calls from friends than students with other developmental disorders. Overall, it was found that nearly 40 percent of autistic students rarely saw their friends in social settings and 28 percent of autistic students in the study had no social contact with peers whatsoever. Because social interaction is considered such an important part of a young person’s development, these socially isolated students could face a difficult transition from school to career and adulthood.

The findings of the study were taken from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, a long-term survey of special education students and their parents. Researchers observed the responses to questions relating to the social interaction of these students. It was found that nearly one-third of students with autism were considered to be socially isolated. Meanwhile, only ten percent of students with an intellectual disability and two to three percent of students with emotional disturbances could be placed into this category. Although most students who fall on the autism spectrum have difficulty socializing with their peers, many autistic students actually crave social interaction and friendship as much as the other students in your classroom do. On the other hand, social isolation not only demoralizes those suffering this way, it can also contribute to a variety of related concerns that reinforce the isolation itself: If not treated, and without intervention, isolation and avoidance lead to more of the same.

The good news is that school is far more than simply learning lessons from teachers; it is where young people learn how to interact with each other and learn the social skills that will serve them throughout their lives. Many autistic people fail to develop proper social skills due to various limitations, but parents and teachers who have cared for and taught autistic children know that it is possible for them to socialize with their peers. Positive social interaction is very important to a child’s development, and it should always be encouraged even when it seems difficult. Social skills can be taught, isolation can be addressed, and young people with autism can benefit.

Copyright 2013 James Stanfield Company. All Rights Reserved.

Source:  Heasley, Shaun. “Study: Nearly 1 In 3 With Autism Socially Isolated.” Disability Scoop. N.p., 8 May 2013. Web. 16 May 2013.

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