Autism and Social Skills

Social Skills refer to the ability of a person to effectively interact, communicate, and relate with other people through speaking, body language, and actions. Like language skills and other milestones, social skills are naturally acquired during a young age as a child develops. Social skills are gradually built over time as a child learns and adopts how to act in social situations and deal with other people. A typical child with effective social skills can easily create friendships and hold simple conversations.

However, children with Autism spectrum disorders lack social skills and find it extremely difficult to create friendships or carry on conversations.  Common social skills deficits in Autistic children include the inability to initiate conversations, responding to initiations by others, maintaining eye contact, reading non-verbal cues, play skills, problem-solving, and taking another person’s perspective. There is also a common belief that children with autism are uninterested in making friendships because they are anti-social. But this is entirely incorrect. Children with autism want to make friends and interact with other children, but they just don’t know how to do it. These social skill deficits mean that these children do not always display what is considered typical behaviors, which makes it almost impossible to develop and maintain any meaningful relationships.

Teaching social skills to children with autism

It is every parent’s dream to see their children make friends and live a happy and fun life. It can be very frustrating to see their autistic children struggle to make friends. Fortunately, there are various ways you can help your autistic child learn social skills. For high-performing autistic individuals, the social skill deficits are so minor and almost unnoticeable in casual conversation. Children with High Functioning Autism (HFA) are able to adapt and learn social skills much easier and fit in socially. However, for children with Low Functioning Autism (LFA), social deficits are usually pronounced, and they often find it impossible to naturally fit in social situations.

There are many social skills that an Autistic child can learn from different people in different settings. Often, the training starts with a professionally trained social skills therapist but does not end there. Other people, including psychologists, school counselors, other types of therapists, special education teachers at school, and parents at home, can also be involved in social skills training.

Humans are social beings that derive happiness and joy from interacting and socializing with other people. Therefore, social skills are a crucial part of enhancing a positive life experience. Having an Autistic child may be challenging, but this should not limit your child from leading a fun and fulfilling life.

Frye, Richard E. “Social skills deficits in autism spectrum disorder: Potential biological origins and progress in developing therapeutic agents.” CNS drugs 32, no. 8 (2018): 713-734.

Livingston, Lucy Anne, Emma Colvert, Social Relationships Study Team, Patrick Bolton, and Francesca Happé. “Good social skills despite poor theory of mind: exploring compensation in autism spectrum disorder.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 60, no. 1 (2019): 102-110.

Olsson, Nora Choque, Oskar Flygare, Christina Coco, Anders Görling, Anna Råde, Qi Chen, Katarina Lindstedt et al. “Social skills training for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 56, no. 7 (2017): 585-592.

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