How do I help my child with autism build social skills?

Parent Question
Mar. 2, 2022Updated Mar. 17, 2022

Kids with autism are more likely to play alone and engage in repetitive actions. It can also be hard for them to share objects with others, explore their environment, take turns, and respond to peers. Playing (especially with others) is so important for building language, communication, and motor and social skills — and just like other aspects of development, our kids can work to learn these skills, and as parents, we can provide the support to help get them there.

Here are some tips from researchers and therapists about helping kids with autism learn how to play:

  • Use play routines that are centered on the child’s interests. If a child starts stacking blocks into a tower, the adult will do the same, and they’ll have a back-and-forth.
  • If the child is so interested in a toy that the parent doesn’t have any opportunities to join in with the play, it might be better to choose some different toy options while you’re first practicing playing.
  • Parents should actively play with their children and encourage taking turns.
  • Match your child’s language during play. Watch for signs that your child is communicating (for example, eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, vocalizations, and words) so that you can respond. This helps the child see how important communication is!

For more tips and resources on this topic, see our article Helping Kids with Autism Learn How to Play.

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