The old saying goes, “nobody likes a sore loser.” Dealing with losing is a social skill that your child with autism may find more challenging than their neurotypically-developing peers. There is a variety of reasons why this is so including, difficulty regulating emotions, or a deficit in perceiving other’s social cues. Dealing with losing is an important skill that can be taught. The mastery of this skill can promote deeper, longer-lasting, meaningful relationships between your child and her or his peers.
Here are seven tips that can help your child acquire this skill.
- Introduce the skill, dealing with losing, and give examples: Speak with your child about dealing with losing and let them know that you’re going to work with them to develop this skill. For example, you may want to say, “Linda, I wanted to speak with you about something that may help you. That is, learning good ways that one can deal with losing.”
- Be explicit! Describe and model what good losing behavior looks like: Before you speak with your child, break down what good losing behavior looks like into easy-to-understand, age-appropriate steps. Draw your child’s attention to her or his facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, gestures, and mannerisms. You know your child and how she or he expresses frustration. This knowledge can prove very useful when teaching this, and other, skills. For example, you may want to say, “Let’s say you were playing Uno with your brother and your friend. If you lose the game, smile, shake hands and say “congratulations, you played a good game. It was fun to play with you.”
- Speak with your child about why dealing with losing is important: Dealing with losing is important because it allows your child to make and nurture relationships with her or his peers. For example, you may want to consider saying, “Even though losing may seem sad in the moment, what’s more important is the chance to win a good friendship. You can do that with practicing good sportsmanship. Let’s talk about what that means!”
- Practice dealing with losing by role-playing: Role play is a powerful tool when teaching any social skill. It creates a safe environment for your child to practice and learn the skills that she or he needs to be successful. Start by walking your child through each step of how to deal with losing. This serves as a reminder. Create a role-play situation that is relevant to your child and age appropriate. For example, you could say “let’s imagine that you just lost the Uno game you were just playing. I want you to smile, shake my hand and tell me that you had fun playing. Let’s try it now!”
- Give praise when appropriate: It could be expected that your child does well on some aspects of this skill and not so well on others. To avoid encouraging problem behavior, be very specific about what you are praising. For example, you could say, “Great job smiling and saying congratulations! That makes me want to play with you! When praising, be enthusiastic and animated. Check out our blog post about praise for more tips!
- Create positive consequences for your child: When your child deals with losing well, in addition to praise, provide her or him with a reward. The reward should be delivered immediately and be something they like. Some examples are favorite activities, food or attention. For example, perhaps your child likes to play video games or watch television. You could give her 10-minutes to watch her favorite cartoon. The harder it is for your child to deal with losing the greater the reward should be.
- Correct your child when needed: Before you correct your child on specific steps of how to deal with losing, you should consider if the steps are broken down in an age and skills appropriate manner. In other words, is what you’re asking realistic for your child? When correcting the step, be specific and model the correct behavior. For example, you could say, “When you say congratulations, try using a lower tone of voice like this. Now you try!”
These are a few examples of steps that you could take to help your child with autism deal with losing. Social behaviors and responses vary greatly from child to child. If you have any questions, click here now to reach our staff of clinical experts who can help you with you, and your child’s, evolving needs.