Sunday, August 23, 2009

Teens With Autism Master Social Cues, Find Friends

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Thirteen-year-old Andrea Levy ticked off a mental list of rules to follow when her guest arrived: Greet her at the door. Introduce her to the family. Offer a cold drink.
Above all, make her feel welcome by letting her choose what to do.
''Do you want to make pizza now or do you want to make it later?'' the lanky, raven-haired teen rehearsed in the kitchen, as her mother spread out dough and toppings.
This was a pivotal moment for Andrea, a girl who invited just one acquaintance to her bat mitzvah.
Andrea has autism, and socializing doesn't come naturally. For the past several weeks, she's gone to classes that teach the delicate ins and outs of making friends -- an Emily Post rules of etiquette for autistic teens.
''A lot of our kids need a tune-up. They need new skills to help them survive in their new social world,'' said clinical psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson of the University of California, Los Angeles, who runs a 3 1/2-month friendship program for high-functioning autistic teens like Andrea.

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