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How Can I Help a Classmate With Autism?

A kid at my school has autism and I wanna know what to do when he comes around me. I try and be nice to him but I don't think he understands that I'm just trying to be nice. I like to help kids with disorders but sometimes I don't know how. Can you help?
– Rosy*

It's great to be friendly and kind — and especially helpful to kids who might have a harder time making friends because of a disability. Some disabilities, like autism, affect a person's social awareness. The person isn't able to pick up on social cues the same way someone else might. Because kids with autism act and interact differently, they sometimes get left out or teased.

Sometimes people want to be kind and friendly, but they find that simply reaching out can be misinterpreted as wanting to be BFFs. For example, once you're friendly, maybe the person starts talking to you all the time, but you want to hang out just sometimes. You don't want to be rude.  When people with autism have trouble with social cues, they might not always know when it's time to end the conversation or give you space. Try using a simple but friendly way to end the conversation, such as, "Well, I have to go now, bye!"

A teacher might be able to give you specific tips on how to interact with your classmate. With help from teachers and support from peers, students with special needs can learn some rules for friendships that they don't know instinctively.

Don't give up. By being friendly, you're doing something important — setting an example to include and be kind to everyone. That's helpful to your classmate with autism, but it also helps everyone realize that each person is special and worth getting to know. And a person can never have too many friends.

Reviewed by: Rhonda S. Walter, MD
Date Reviewed: 01-07-2016

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