Autism and Social Problems: Max Learns to Apologize


In a recent episode of NBC’s “Parenthood,” Amber helps her autistic younger cousin, Max, learn to apologize.

If you saw the whole show, you know that Max believed his friend and cousin, Jabbar, breeched their agreement to eat lunch together at school, and so, the boys got into a fight. Max did not realize that the agreement was one-sided, and it was not fair of him to try to control his where his cousin sat every day.

It is important to note that Max was not flawed in his logic; and it made sense to him that he should feel angry. He did not understand that sometimes, even though you want someone to do something, they have the right to make their own choices – even if you thought you had an agreement.

Breaking through the logic that many kids with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) work within, while validating their feelings and helping them understand how to reframe the situation and put themselves in someone else’s shoes, is difficult, but not insurmountable.

Watch the video clip here.

So many kids on the autism spectrum find it difficult to assess the feelings of others and mimic them within themselves. This is partly because they have trouble understanding social cues and facial expressions.  Breaking it down for them is sometimes essential. I loved Amber’s use of the video to show Max specific mannerisms, expressions and tone to use when giving a “sincere” apology.  Similar methods of teaching can be role playing or using books and expressions cards.

I also believe in and often use rewards and incentives such as the candies Amber gives Max when he mimics an apology correctly.

I was watching this episode with my daughter and said, “If you want to know what I do in session, that’s a pretty good example. Right down to the tootsie rolls!”  I thought it was great.

It’s important to remember the logic ASD kids like Max work within, and their difficulty with social cues. A few visual examples and rewards can go a long way when teaching them how to deal with complex social situations.


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