Skills For Socialisation

Monday, September 2 2019

One of the defining characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is impairments in communicative behaviours used for social interactions and difficulty developing, maintaining and understanding relationships.

Understandably, impairments in social and play skills are often an area of concern for families who have a child with ASD. Valuing the importance of social connectedness, families may wonder if their child will ever be able to play appropriately or develop friendships. We should acknowledge that socialisation is a two way street, and one necessary component is that all people should be accepted for who they are.

kids socialising skills

Play and social skills are an important part of a child’s development. They lead to friendships as well as language and conceptual development and allow individuals to interact with others within their community. To help facilitate these skills, families can work with their ABA program supervisors to tailor an individualised program that helps teach children social and play skills. Your ABA supervisor will be able to direct you to what skills will be appropriate for your child’s development level. (New to ABA? Learn more about ABA therapy.)

Social skill areas that your ABA program may work on could include:


Sustained attention involves focusing on the information that is important while screening out irrelevant information. It is an important skill to learn in order for children to complete a play activity such completing a puzzle with a peer. Sustained attention is also important when engaging with peers in distracting environments such as the kinder room and is necessary for effective communication.


Imitation involves cueing into, observing and copying others. Imitation allows children to learn new skills and to connect with others. It is a skill that opens the door to parallel play such as learning to push a car along the ground next to a peer. It also allows children to join in with their peers during social games such as What’s The Time Mr Wolf and Hide and Seek.

Joint Attention

Joint attention involves the shared focus of two people for the purpose of sharing an interest. Children may demonstrate this skill by looking to a family member when something fun and exciting is occurring in their environment. A child may also demonstrate this skill by sitting with a peer and reading a book while pointing to the pictures.


Sharing is another important skill for play and socialisation. There are numerous skills that a child may need in order to learn to share, these include learning to wait a specific amount of time to access a preferred item. As well as learning to take turns during a game of Memory or Snakes and Ladders, or learning to allow a peer or sibling to take a turn with a favourite toy.


Having an appropriate communication form for your child is another important skill for socialisation. Whether that be expressive language, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (e.g. PECS, proloquo2go) or gestures such as being able to point as well as shake or nod their head, it will be valuable for them to communicate their wants and needs with others.

However, socialisation and play can take many forms. Play and socialisation may look different for each child with ASD, to what it looks like for typically developing peers and that is okay. It may also take time for them to find their own group of likeminded friends, follow your child’s interests and invite other children who share this interest, for example set up a playdate with another child who likes Lego or who is also interested in Dinosaurs.

Your ABA program supervisor can help identify the right combination of supports that will be best for you and your child as part of our ABA services.

— Written by Elisha Mont, Learning For Life Clinical Supervisor