Children with autism who participate in ABA therapy spend time learning and practicing social skills. Social skills teaching improves the communication and other behavioral skills required for positive interactions in social and learning situations. As your child practices social skills in ABA therapy, parents and caregivers can reinforce learning at home with these tips:

  • Playing pretend. Rather than waiting for a real-life situation to come up, create, explain, or act out scenarios with your child. This role-play can help your child learn in a safe, low-risk environment where they have the time to think through their responses and behaviors. You can even do this with behaviors seen in books or movies or other media that your child may encounter to help further their understanding of each social interaction.

Consider asking your child how they might want to respond by offering choices. An example may be sharing that when meeting someone for the first time, someone may reach out to shake their hand and they have the choice to:

  • shake their hand,
  • offer a fist bump,
  • come up with their own preferred response.

Choices and role playing those scenarios will help your child feel confident and empowered when encountering that social scenario in real-life.

  • Modeling and explaining. Children often learn by observing and imitating the world around them. But for a child with autism, this may be a skill that is developing. In addition to modeling social behavior, take the time to explain your rationale to your child for why that certain situation called for a specific behavior, i.e. greeting someone when they entered the room. Additionally, this can be a great opportunity to model the preferred way your child likes to greet others.

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  • Using social stories. A social story is a short narrative with realistic pictures, designed to help a child with autism navigate the world. Good criteria for a social story include using first or third person, explaining things literally and accurately, answering key questions of who, what, where, why, when, and how, and including positive affirmations for the child. Each social story, designed to help children manage daily events, emotions, and frustrations, should include a few words on each page explaining an action, followed by a picture of that action. For example, if the social story is about eating at the table, it may start with a sentence about why we eat at the table, or what kind of meals we eat at the table, followed by a picture of a child seated and eating at the table.

Reinforcing skills and behaviors learned in the clinic setting at home and in the child’s natural environments can help your child fully integrate the skills. Learn more about Inner Circle Autism Network’s approach to social skills development as part of ABA therapy here.