How to Improve Your Child's Social Skills

By Kate
Behaviour Support

Having good social skills is a big factor in someone’s success at school and at work. Social skills help us to build rapport, make jokes and share experiences. They help us to identify when to take a step back if we have said something inappropriate or to offer sympathy to someone who is upset.  Individuals with autism and language difficulties often need additional support with developing social skills. To build on a child’s social skills here are some things you can do:

  1. Arrange play dates with children of a similar age/ language level – this will provide more opportunities for your child to build on the skills they have. If they are with a child who is at a similar level to them it will be easier for them to take part in the interaction.
  2. What is your child most interested in playing with? It is important to have some toys/ activities that you know your child enjoys playing with in the play area to give them a focal point to use their language.
  3. What skills does your child need to develop? If you are unsure of this I would recommend getting an opinion from a professional e.g. a behaviour analyst or a speech and language therapist. This will guide you in deciding what to prioritize.
  4. Reward the behaviour you want to see- when we reward behaviour it highlights to a child that they have done something appropriately. If your child is ‘asking for a toy from a friend’ it is important to give positive attention to your child when they follow through on using this skill. Rewards can be tangible items e.g. bubbles/ time with a favoured toy and praise.
  5. Be specific when giving your child praise. Make sure to tell them why they are being praised e.g. ‘that was great asking the other boy to play with you!’ ‘Great sharing your toys with your friend!’ rather than ‘well done’ ‘good work’.
  6. Does your child know what language to use in a play interaction? For example if he/ she is asking a friend to play with him or asking a question to interact with another child give him the model of the language he/ she will need to use e.g. ‘do you want to play with me?’ ‘What’s your name?’
  7. Practice playing games with age appropriate toys- can your child follow the rules of how to play the game/ take turns in playing the game with you first? This can help set them up for success.
  8. Does your child understand the concept of first/ then e.g. first it’s his turn and then it’s your turn? This can help keep your child focused to complete the activity with a friend until it’s their turn.
  9. Use of visuals- pictures can be used to support your child’s understanding of the steps involved in the game e.g. (i) first we roll the dice (ii) second we count the spaces (iii) third we wait for our friend to take his turn.
  10. To teach a new skill it’s helpful to model the behaviour you want your child to follow. Then help them to get it right when they are following through on the skill themselves e.g. ‘asking someone to play with them’, ‘taking a turn in a game’, ‘telling a friend “well done”’.


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