Teaching personal space and body language to children with Autism can be difficult. There have been many times when I am with Niam, in a store, a social setting, where Niam is often too close to another person. I often have to ask him to step back or end up explaining to the
person who are not always so understanding. Many teachers will use personals space games to teach the concept of personal space to their students. If your child is like Niam, often times, the language barrier prevents learning. I put together a FREE ” Personal Space” social story to teach the concept. This story is about standing too close, talking too close to another person and, sitting too close to another person. Personal Space can have many different meanings. For example, appropriate hugging and touching to name a few.
Learning about personal boundaries helps children and teens to develop a sense of individual responsibility and control. Developing a sense of personal autonomy and respect for self and others leads to increased self-esteem. ( Alberta Health Services)
Tips For Using The FREE Personal Space Social Story
Read The Social Story To Your Child
Read the social story to your child. The story is a great way to visually demonstrate the expectation in a fun and engaging format. What does personal space look like? What does it mean?
Practice The One Arm Rule?
Take the opportunity to teach the one arm rule. I demonstrated to Niam by using my arm as an indicator how far he should stand or sit from someone. Understanding personal space can be difficult as the concept can be abstract. For example, if you are in a crowded place or standing in line, these rules would not apply. By adding an indicator , such as an arm, the child can learn to use their arm as an approximate.
3. Role Play
Use the social story to role play with your child. Practice sitting close and than using the one arm rule to distance yourself. Practice in different situations.
4. Teach Social Cues
I put this one as number 4 on purpose. This is a difficult one to teach. Not all kids on the Autism Spectrum will learn the social cues from another person they require more space. Interpreting body language can be difficult.
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