Building relationships

Being able to form a relationship with another person is an important and desirable skill. This is something which many of us are able to do quite easily and which brings a range of benefits.

But the opposite is true for someone with an autistic spectrum disorder. They find it difficult to connect in an emotional way with others which affects their relationships in a variety of ways.

So it is important that they are taught the skills needed to form successful relationships with others. There are various ways of doing this which often involve play as a means of improving speech and social skills in general.

Importance of relationships

The ability to build relationships is an important skill to have and enables us as humans to feel wanted and cared for by other people. We are social beings who enjoy social contact with others and this enables us to develop and learn more about life.

A relationship is a two way process in which support, empathy and encouragement are freely exchanged. Forming an emotional connection with another person can be one of the most rewarding aspects of your life.

But spare a thought for a person on the autism spectrum who is unable to express emotions, empathise with others or deal with intimacy. They cannot read another person’s thoughts and emotions or imagine what that person is feeling.

They tend to remain emotionally detached from other people and often prefer their own company as this is easier to deal with. The thought of having to grasp with the subtle complexities of a friendship can be too daunting to consider.

However, one option is ’Relationship Development Intervention’or RDI for short.

Relationship development intervention

This is a type of intervention in which the autistic child is encouraged to develop social, behavioural and emotional skills by gradual interaction with his/her parents.

The family of an autistic child is provided with a series of social and communication objectives which they and the child work towards over a period of time.

The aim is for the child to become accustomed to this interaction with their parent which enables them to acquire the skills necessary to build relationships with others.

The parents learn a set of skills which they use to interact with their child. Conversely, their child learns these skills from their parents which will benefit them in situations such as making friends with other children, problem solving and making a decision.

The parents become more relaxed about their child’s condition and find new ways of communicating with their child. Their child learns about emotional relationships and gradually acquires the skills needed to develop these relationships.

This will benefit them now and when they become an adult.

Developing dynamic intelligence

Another outcome of this intervention is developing what is known as ’dynamic intelligence’. Dynamic intelligence is crucially important in any person’s development as having this facility means that this person is able to live independently and function in today’s society.

What is ’dynamic intelligence?’

This refers to a type of intelligence which is characterised as follows:

    • Flexible
    • Deal with change
    • Decisive
    • Think laterally
    • Think ’on one’s feet’
    • Can perform two tasks at the same time, e.g. look at an object and listen to what is being said simultaneously.
    • Consider all points of view

As you might imagine these are all qualities needed to survive and grow in the real world. The world is a constantly changing place which requires us to adapt to whatever it throws at us. Plus life is unpredictable and events happen for which there is no obvious explanation.

But this is something many autistic people find baffling or difficult to cope with. They often have a fixed, ’black and white’view of the world and rely upon routines and repetition as a way of understanding constant change.

They prefer to deal in what they know and understand rather than something new or unexpected.

This intervention teaches these skills plus it is useful at rebuilding a relationship between an autistic child and their parent which has broken down as a result of their condition.

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