Children with autism don't have the same needs and motivations for social interactions like the rest of the world does. While most 4 year olds are looking for their mom's approval and attention, a child with autism does not. So how do we connect? How do we build bonds?
I think the answer lies in meeting them where they are. Most kids with autism have some kind of interest, and sometimes it is their obsession. While in therapy we try to distract them, or get them interested in other things, we can only do that if we first have a bond.
Parents, teachers, and therapists struggling to create a connection with a child with autism can find games and activities based on the child's passions and interests. Sometimes the child may not even respond the first time. Children with autism feel safe when there is routine and they know what comes next. So introducing the same game at the same time repeatedly might help them feel comfortable enough to connect. Once they connect, if they discover that it is related to their interest, they will usually engage. As they engage with a person on an activity, the bond is built, and the teacher or the parent can start introducing other tasks and activities.
The thing to remember is to not force or create an unpleasant situation for the child. If the child is overstimulated or fearful, it delays the process of building trust. It's so important to give the child time and space to get used to the new location, people, materials at a pace that's comfortable for them. Trust takes time to build, but once built, it is such an authentic, beautiful relationship that will be life-changing both ways.
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