Children with autism usually have problems interacting with other people, but a new study featured on Science Daily shows that a little initiative from their playmates may get them to come out of their shell.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University grouped children between eight to 12 years old in different teams. Each had a “confederate,” or a kid trained as a research assistant, a regular playmate who was just there to play, and a kid with autism.

The confederate would invite both of the children to play while listening to directions from researchers through a provided earpiece. Researchers would then observe their interactions and compare their findings alongside the stress levels of the participants, which were measured through cortisol in the saliva.

Researchers found that children with autism had higher levels of stress than the rest of the participants. However, there were also more likely to interact with others when they are invited to play with a group.

“One of the key places we learn about social rules growing up is during play, but if you don't participate, chances are you're not going to learn the rules or be motivated to interact to other children, ” says lead author Blythe Corbett.

“Although children with autism may experience increased stress in social interactions, it was encouraging to see that reciprocal socialisation can be facilitated by peer solicitation. It all starts with a simple bid to play.”

(Photo by Steven Depolo via Flickr Creative Commons; used for illustrative purposes only)

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