Teaching social skills to children with autism

It is recognised that social interaction is a key difficulty for children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the first thing we need to realize is that it is not a case of:  “a child with Autism will never be able to learn social skills!” but rather:  “a child with Autism needs specific social teaching in order to understand and learn these very important skills”.

Teaching social skills to children with autism is an area of behaviour “treatment” that is continuously evolving and with Autism being a spectrum disorder social skill difficulties will present themselves in various different ways so understanding the difficulties of social skills in children with autism is vital.

Some of the ways in which social difficulties will present is:

  • a child will not know when to stop talking
  • a child will seem rude or defiant
  • a child will not share or they will come across as being “selfish” when playing
  • a child will not respond to greetings or farewells
  • a child does not seem aware of the consequences of their behaviour
  • a child will not use “please or thank you”
  • a child will constantly interrupt others
  • a child will change the topic of conversation to suit their own needs
  • a child will not be unaware of another person’s feelings or emotions and will not recognize their facial expressions or body language.

The use of social stories in a classroom environment can be very helpful when teaching social skills and this is because children with Autism learn better visually.

A social story is a great way to explain the intricacies of sharing, emotions and rules.  These types of activities combine a story and pictures.  One can even incorporate colouring activities and other interactive aspects to the lesson plan.  Repetition and consistency is the key.






Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.