Children with autism often need help improving their social skills. While they may want to interact with other people, they might not know exactly how to do it. The more you practice social interaction skills with your child, the stronger and more confident they will become in social situations. Improved confidence in themselves can help them feel happier to participate in friendships and community activities.
But how do you do that when it’s unsafe to be in social situations?
Many parents just like you are asking that same question. Although we’ve all found ourselves more home-bound than ever before, that doesn’t mean your child’s social skills practice has to suffer.
Fortunately, there are some great ways to help your child with autism improve their social skills without going anywhere. You can work on teaching social skills at home, which you can then practice by participating in virtual social activities with others.
Ideas to Help Improve Your Child with Autism’s Social Skills at Home
Before venturing into the world of virtual social interaction, it’s a good idea to work on your child with autism’s social skills at home. You can practice helping them improve their ability to:
- Talk to others
- Manage their emotions
- Solve problems
- Play with others successfully
Here are some ideas for ways you can help your child succeed in effectively mastering these social skills.
Children with autism often have difficulty with social interactions and new situations. Role-playing is an excellent way to teach your child the appropriate social skills in given situations.
How to Role-Play with Your Child with Autism
- Create a scenario that you think your child may experience in their natural environment.
- Define who will be involved in this scenario.
- Write out a simple script to follow.
- Model the role-play for your child with autism.
- Have your child take the appropriate role in the scenario and practice with him or her.
- Encourage and support your child as they practice the scenario with you.
- Encourage and support your child as they act out the scenario in real life.
Watch Videos Together and Observe the People in Them
There are videos online about almost any situation your child may be anxious about! Find a video documenting a child participating in this situation and discuss how that child behaves. This can also help your child with autism know what to expect and may help calm their anxiety about the unknown.
For example, if your son or daughter is anxious about going to the doctor, watch a video of a child going to the doctor. Observe how they act, what they say, and how they follow directions. Discuss the video with your child and encourage them, letting them know they, too, can have a great experience at the doctor just like the child in the video.
Play Games With Your Child
This is an at-home social skills activity that both you, your child with autism, and any other family members can participate in. Playing games with your child at home helps your child practice before they go out into the world, physically and virtually, to play games with others.
As you play games, observe your child’s behavior and help them through things they struggle with.
Some simple game ideas include:
- Simon says
- Hide and seek
- Simple board games (Connect Four, Jenga, Twister, etc.)
- Kicking or throwing a ball back and forth
Read and Discuss Social Stories Together
The Social Stories concept was created in the early 90s by Dr. Carol Gray. Social Stories resemble the previous role-play activity because they present your child with given social situations where they need to practice communication and emotions. Through illustrating scenarios and problems, Social Stories teach your child how to behave and react appropriately.
You can purchase books that include social stories, or you can write your own. Here is an excellent resource for writing a social story to help your child improve their social skills: How to Write Social Stories.
Virtual Social Activity Ideas
While there aren’t many virtual social interaction resources, there are a few that are sure to help your child practice their social skills with others.
One great tool to help strengthen your child’s social skills virtually is by playing games with others online. We’re not necessarily referring to Roblox, Minecraft, or Fortnite. However, many teens with autism can benefit from them. We’re talking about games specifically designed to help bolster social skills in children with autism.
Joel Shaul, LCSW, created some excellent teletherapy resources to help your child with autism work on their social skills with others virtually. His website includes free downloadable game boards and social skills teaching kits.
Simply download any of his free resources and share the link with friends, family, and other families who have children with autism. Then you can video chat with them and play the game following the easy-to-understand instructions. You can play along and observe how your child uses the social skills you’ve worked on together.
This website is a great resource for some excellent social interaction games. While the games were initially meant for in-person play, you can easily adapt many of them to play online with family and friends.
Virtual Social Skills Groups
There are several virtual social skills groups for children and some that specifically target children with autism. You can sign your child up for an age-appropriate virtual social skills group, where they will learn and strengthen their communication and interaction skills.
Just be aware that attending virtual social skills groups often costs money. However, they are an excellent investment to help improve your child with autism’s social skills.
Here are a few options to look into:
How to Combine Virtual Social Activities With Your Child’s ABA Therapy
While improving your child with autism’s social skills at home and online is important, it shouldn’t take the place of your child’s customized ABA therapy treatment. On the contrary, doing both will help your child grow by leaps and bounds!
If you’re unsure how to integrate at-home and virtual social skills practice into your child’s ABA therapy, contact us here at The Autism Therapy Group. We’d love to help you! We’re here for you. Our primary goal is to help your child grow to reach their full potential through ABA therapy and at-home practice.