This section aims at providing guidelines for parents, caregivers, and/or teachers in developing social skills for Autism.

Further, the section targets understanding social skills and also the difficulties faced while socializing in a group. on a daily basis, a variety of social situations are combated, which can be particularly difficult for those on the Autism Spectrum. Conversation rules entail initiating, listening, waiting for their turn and maintaining a topic are rather challenging. These rules are reflexive in nature, and occur more easily to those who are typically developing. However, for an individual on the Autism Spectrum, social aspects such as the above are difficult and complex, making it confusing and challenging to tackle.

Below are few ideas, aspects and suggestions that are offered to better develop social skills for Autism, which would thereby provide positive and understandable relations with others. The techniques will be different depending on the diagnosis on the spectrum and whether the individual is verbal or non-verbal.

Understanding Social Skills:

The key purpose of social skills is to be able to result in positive social interactions and ultimately integrate into society which is a key aspect that is difficult for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. The skills required for social interactions include both verbal and non-verbal skills.

  1. Social skills are standard ways of interaction to encourage positive relationships

  2. They are certain behaviour patterns that predict social outcomes for eg: delight, consent, appreciation, etc.

  3. Social skills are a medium of cognitive and verbal or non-verbal communication skills

  4. Generally social skill sets are acquired naturally but people with Autism usually don’t have an implicit social mapping or an understanding of the process and purpose/need of social interactions. Therefore, training is essential which is carried out by employing multiple techniques and aspects which are made stronger through practice in multiple setups and social environments.

Techniques to develop social skills for Autism in children:

  • Using Social Skills Training (SST) to engage individuals with the simple social functions of greeting, requesting, initiating, sharing at home with parent

  • Increase the duration and frequency of social interaction with peers (eg: going to the park, playground, playdates with other children, etc)

  • Often perform role-play or modeling with your child (eg: pretend conversation on the telephone, kitchen/doctor set role-play)

  • Use social narratives/stories with your child (eg: Once upon a time there two friends, who played ball together...) include the skills of greeting, initiating, requesting and sharing in the story

  • Social scripts can be used - a story with pictures and written cues to be read with the your child

  • Give a reward/reinforcement to the child when he/she is socially active and attempting to participate

  • Making the social skills interaction in the most natural settings (as mentioned above )

  • Continuing to develop language skills; of receptive and expressive language to put to use during social interactions

  • Providing feedback to teachers at school to encourage a similar skills set that being targeted at home

  • For non-verbal communicators or expressive deficits: using PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), video modeling, visual supports, technology-aided communication)

  • Some of the aspects of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) is also used in non-verbal communicators

Techniques to develop social skills for Autism in adolescents:

  • Developing skills of your teenager specifically for making consistent eye-contact, initiating conversation, knowing when to enter and/or exit in a conversation

  • Playing social skills games with family first, and then encouraging the same with peers (eg: board and card games)

  • Encouraging your teengaer to go out with peers, under supervision of you (eg: outdoor activities at the park such as bicycling or playing sports with peers)

  • Using social narratives/stories to help your teenager in understanding the importance of relationships and friendships

  • Engaging your teenager in topic-based conversation (eg: talking about sports, routine at school, favorite destination spot etc.)

  • Introducing your teengaer to age-appropriate higher cognitive functions of humor, sarcasm, non-literal aspects (eg: jokes, quotations, common metaphors) through worksheets, video learning and watching role-plays of the mentioned topics

  • You as a parent need to be able to gauge the dynamics of the peer group that your child is in, and be an active participant in building the relationship and friendships within the group

  • For non-verbal communicators or expressive deficits: video modeling, visual supports, technology-aided communication)

Techniques to develop social skills for Autism in adults:

  • To focus more on recreational activities, and integration into the society as an adult

  • To be able to perform self-reflection in situations of an emotional breakdown (eg: timeout to calm down, writing down feelings)

  • Assisting in using the higher cognitive functions of humor, sarcasm and non-literal aspects (eg: jokes, quotations, common metaphors) through peer interaction with adults

  • Attending social skills groups to participate together in recreational activities or exchanging topic specific ideas

  • Generalizing learned skills of topic-initiation, turn-taking, topic-maintenance

  • For non-verbal communicators: using a specific application on a Communication Device that allows for picture/symbol selection for communication or the typing of words which can be heard aloud

Non-verbal Communicators:

In those individuals where verbal communication has not been acquired, non-verbal approaches may be acquired for the ease of communication. Some of which are mentioned in the above sections but a summary is available below:

  • PECS

  • Technology-aided communication- specific applications on a communication device

  • Video modeling

  • Visual supports (picture charts)

  • Social stories that are read out to the individual

Intervention Programs for developing Social Skills in Autism:

  • Early Intervention Program (involves parents)

  • Early Start Denver Model (model includes parents and therapist)

  • SCERTS (Social Communication, Emotion Regulation, Transactional Support program)

  • SST (Social Skills Training)


Lindgren, S., & Doobay, A. (2011). Evidence-based interventions for autism spectrum disorders. The University of Iowa, Iowa.

Rao, P. A., Beidel, D. C., & Murray, M. J. (2008). Social skills interventions for children with Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism: A review and recommendations. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 38(2), 353-361.

Bellini, S., Peters, J. K., Benner, L., & Hopf, A. (2007). A meta-analysis of school-based social skills interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. Remedial and Special Education, 28(3), 153-162.

Tse, J., Strulovitch, J., Tagalakis, V., Meng, L., & Fombonne, E. (2007). Social skills training for adolescents with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 37(10), 1960-1968.

Laugeson, E. A., Frankel, F., Mogil, C., & Dillon, A. R. (2009). Parent-assisted social skills training to improve friendships in teens with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 39(4), 596-606.

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