Child Speech Therapy: Autism and Social Skills

Socials skills (turn taking, initiating conversation, and staying on topic) are necessary to create meaningful relationships with peers. Children with autism spectrum disorder need to be explicitly taught the social skills that may come naturally to other children. Children with ASD want to have meaningful relationships with other children, but require extra help to build relationships. 

            Impairments in social functioning is a distinct feature of ASD, and may include deficits in the following:

  • Initiating interactions
  • Responding to the initiation of others
  • Taking on another person’s perspective

            Speech-language pathologists assist children with autism develop important social skills to communicate wants and needs, socialize with others, and participate in activities. Incorporating your child’s speech goals at home can reinforce and generalize social skills in everyday activities and interactions. Below are some tips and strategies to help your child improve social skills. 

1.    One skill at a time. 

Don’t try to teach all the social skills in one bundle. Children with ASD benefit from learning social skills in smaller segments and practicing one skill at a time. For instance, introduce greetings (hello, what’s up, how are you) first, and provide opportunities to greet members in the community. 

2.    Model social interactions.

Social interactions occur frequently throughout the day. After modeling appropriate social behaviors, explain the situation after the interaction. As mentioned before, children with ASD benefit from explicit instruction regarding social interaction. Explain the difference between greeting your sister versus greeting an unfamiliar communication partner. You may hug your sister but shake the hand of the unfamiliar person. 

3.    Visuals and social stories.

Visuals in the form of a comic strip can help introduce a new social skill. Children can bring the comic strip to school for a visual reminder when presented with a social interaction. Social stories present social concepts through a brief and engaging story format. Social stories through video may work best. Research has shown that children with ASD respond well to instruction via technology.

4.   Role-play.

Once the child is presented the skill, role-play different scenarios the child may be expected to use the specific skill. The more comfortable the child feels using the new skill, the more often they will implement it during everyday interactions. 

5.   Practice, practice, practice!

During childhood, many interactions revolve around play. For children with autism, learning the rules of card and board games may be challenging. Ask your child’s teacher if there are specific games children like to play during recess. Practice playing the games at home, and eventually use the game to initiate interaction with peers at school.

6.   Celebrate strengths. 

Children with ASD frequently have specific interests in hobbies that may include music, technology, or rote memorization skills. Encourage your child to use these interests and strengths to their advantage when interacting with others.   

7.   Social Group. 

Social groups are an excellent way for children to apply their social skill goals in a functional, but supportive setting.  Lumiere Children’s therapy offers social groups for all ages. Learn more here

 

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Resources:
Bellini, Scott. “Indiana University Bloomington.” IIDC - The Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University, www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/Making-and-Keeping-Friends-A-Model-for-Social-Skills-Instruction.
“Helping Your Child with Autism Improve Social Skills.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 16 June 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/socioemotional-success/201706/helping-your-child-autism-improve-social-skills.
“Social Skills and Autism.” Autism Speaks, 25 July 2012, www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/community-connections/social-skills-and-autism.