Social Skills
Autism is a developmental disorder that can interfere with a child’s ability to communicate and interact appropriately with others. The American Psychiatric Association listed symptoms of autism that are related to social skills and interactions with others as having difficulties with back-and-forth conversations, difficulty in reading and understanding nonverbal cues in other people, lack of imaginary or collaborative play and difficulty responding to social interaction or initiating them. While many children with autism have the desire to interact with others, they may lack the social skills needed to engage with other peers in an appropriate manner. In addition, they can easily become overwhelmed by the social situation that they are in.

Social skills are the skills that we use every day to interact and develop relationships with others. We rely on our social skills to do everything from ordering a coffee from our favorite coffee shop to maintaining friendships. Without the development of social skills, we will have a difficult time doing many of the task that we do daily. Just think of the skills needed to order a simple cup of coffee. If your speech is unclear or your body language suggests that you are not ready to order yet you will not be able to get that cup of coffee that you want.

There are many social skills, some include communicating with others through verbal communication and nonverbal body language, making eye contact, sharing, listening to others, following directions, cooperating with others, and respecting others personal space. These skills are typically developed naturally though a person’s personal experiences, both positive and negative, with others. Many children with autism lack this natural social skills development and have a harder time learning these skills. Even though a child with autism may lack the development of social skills naturally it does not mean that they are going to live the rest of their life without them. Social skills can be improved in children with autism though multiple avenues such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy and from the help of their parents. BCOTB can provide their clients with the programming that they need to help develop social skills at the clinic.

At BCOTB, clients who need help with social skills development can work on developing basic skills such as making and maintaining eye contact when their name is called, sharing toys that they are playing with, asking other peers for desired items or activities, and responding to other peers when they ask for items or activities. After children master the building blocks of social skills, more advance skills can be taught such as holding a back-and-forth conversation with others and how to respond socially to different scenarios. BCOTB allows children to develop these skills in a controlled environment so that when they are ready, they can take the skills that they learned in the clinic and apply them to real world situations.

Ways Parents can Help Develop their Child’s Social Skills

Parents can help develop social skills outside of their child’s therapy sessions. One-way parents can improve their child social skills is to reinforce the positive social behaviors that they see. Providing reinforcement to your child when you see them correctly using their social skills will let them know that what they did was correct, and hopefully they will more likely do the same social skill in a similar situation again in the future.

Additionally, parents can model different social scenarios though the use of roleplaying. Roleplaying can be a great way to help a child with autism practice social skills and interactions without the extra distractions that can found in the natural environment. There are many scenarios that parents can practice with their child. A few examples of scenarios can include ordering food at a restaurant, paying for food at the grocery store or playing a game that requires turn taking. By practicing different scenarios with your child this can help them to understand what to expect in different situations. For example, you order food differently at a fast-food restaurant than you would at a sit-down restaurant.

Role playing can also give your child the chance to experiment and learn in a low risk setting. By practicing these scenarios in a controlled environment this can allow you and your child to discuss what is happening during the scenario. Also, when you are role playing with your child the scenario can be stopped and started at any point to make corrections and provide reinforcement.

Playing games is another great way to practice social skills with others. Engaging in a game that requires turn taking with others can help strengthen multiple skills. Some of these skills can include making eye contact, turn taking and sharing with others, asking other peers for needed items to play the game and responding to other peers demands. These games do not need to be complex and can be as simple as tossing a ball back and forth. Another good game to play is Simon Says. This game not only helps to teach turn taking but it also teaches skills for following directions.

Another way parents can help to develop their child’s social skills is to provide structured social interactions with other children. Structured social interactions can give your child the ability to practice their development of social skills in a small group and controlled environment before they are required to perform these skills in the natural environment.

Above All Else

Believe that your children with autism can learn these social skills. In addition, do not get frustrated and give up even when progress is not being made in the way you think that it should be. Each child learns at their own pace and in their own way. If one tactic does not work, then reevaluate what you are doing and maybe try a different strategy. With the hard work of everyone that is involved, your child can learn to develop the social skills necessary to develop and maintain relationships with others.


Social skills and autism. (n.d.). Autism Speaks. Retrieved July 2, 2021, from

Stock images from Microsoft Word Processor

Thompson, B. N. (2017, June 16). Helping Your child with Autism Improve Social Skills. Psychology Today, Helping Your Child with Autism Improve Social Skills | Psychology Today

What is autism spectrum disorder? (n.d.). American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved July 2, 2021, form

**BCOTB has been Tampa’s leading provider of pediatric ABA therapy since 2003. With four clinic locations throughout the Tampa Bay area, we know that our clinic is the right spot for your early learner! BCOTB focuses on in-clinic early intervention for children from birth to ten years old. BCOTB accepts most major insurances, including, but not limited to: Aetna, Anthem, Baycare, Beacon, BCBS, Cigna, CMS, Florida Blue, Humana, MHNet, Meritain Health, Magella Health, UnitedHealthcare, and TRICARE.**

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