Home » Social Skills » Best Ways to Help Kids Build Social and Verbal Skills

Best Ways to Help Kids Build Social and Verbal Skills

June 1, 2020

Children with autism spectrum disorder can sometimes find communication and social interaction difficult, and parents can feel shut out. But caregivers can make a big difference in opening the door to communication—and part of it might boil down to meat and potatoes. Why are we bringing dinner into the discussion? Keep reading!

Best Ways to Help Kids Build Social and Verbal Skills https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/build-social-and-verbal-skills/

Changing the way parents talk to their children at mealtime, bath time, and during other daily routines can lay the groundwork for the social and verbal skills children with autism need. Making small changes to basic conversations that families already have at home can help children with autism get that extra push they need to build new social and communication skills.

These three simple steps can lay the foundation for a healthy and vibrant life.     

1. Use Temptation to Spark Communication

Set up situations where children have to communicate to meet their needs. Let’s say a child loves mashed potatoes. Try putting just one spoonful on the plate, with the bowl of potatoes in sight. This encourages the child to ask for more of what is wanted and helps him/her understand that verbalizing needs has benefits. Or, put a favorite toy on a tall shelf—in sight but out of reach—so the child has to ask for it.

2. Try a “Less is More” Approach

Parents often get very good at “reading their children’s minds” and anticipating their needs. However, this can reduce opportunities for communication. When a parent can tell that a child wants to communicate specifically about something, start by asking a more general, less supportive question, such as, “What do you want?” even if the parent is pretty sure he/she already knows the answer to that question!

If a child still has trouble communicating, parents can provide a choice by modeling the word they want a child to say, or the gesture they want a child to use. Parents can even shape children’s hands into a point or another type of gesture to help them indicate what they want. In this way, children have several chances to communicate independently and learn to use their communication skills—even with a parent’s help at first—to get what they want.

Special Offer

Don't miss out on our special offer.
Click here to find out more

3. Keep Talking

Sometimes, parents tend to talk less to children who are nonverbal—but it’s important to keep the conversation flowing. Here’s an example of some helpful meal-time communication from a parent: “Oh, you have peas on your plate! They are green and round. I’ll cut your meat for you—here’s how we do it: cut, cut, cut.” This may sound like chatter, but it reinforces basic words, concepts, and actions, and encourages children to imitate them.

Before parents begin these strategies, they may want to take a step back, and spend a week paying attention to what motivates their child the most, and what routines a child likes to engage in with caregivers. Parents can then find ways to insert themselves in their child’s life, and use every opportunity to boost communication, no matter how mundane it may seem at first.

All of this sounds fairly simple, but it takes some consideration and commitment. Children with autism can be vastly different from one another when it comes to their needs and responses. These daily strategies may not work right away, and it may take a period of trial and error and troubleshooting for them to truly sink in. But remember, five minutes here and there throughout a typical day can really add up.

Of course, the best interventions happen early when it comes to children with autism—especially since the early warning signs involving communication can appear by their first birthday. This type of intervention works best in concert with a clinician who can offer a plan of action and work with parents to see it through.

Small successes along the way can lead to significant strides in a child’s cognitive development. Having autism doesn’t have to mean being isolated or out of touch with society. Engaging with children early in life can help them become socially engaged for a lifetime.

This article was featured in Issue 91 – Great Back-to-School Strategies

Support Autism Parenting Magazine

We hope you enjoyed this article. In order to support us to create more helpful information like this, please consider purchasing a subscription to Autism Parenting Magazine.

Download our FREE guide on the best Autism Resources for Parents

Related Articles

Friendships can form at all stages of life, but the process of making friends can be challenging for children with autism.

Friendships From the Perspective of an Autism Mom

Read More
A psychology and mental health expert shares her top tips for how you can help your autistic child develop good social skills.

Five Social Skills Activities For Children With Autism

Read More
Social Anxiety: Through the Eyes of an Autism Mom

Social Anxiety: Through the Eyes of an Autism Mom

Read More
High Schooler Launches Autism Support Group https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/autism-support-group/

High Schooler Launches Autism Support Group

Read More
Impact of COVID-19 on Children’s Social and Emotional Skills

Impact of COVID-19 on Children’s Social and Emotional Skills

Read More
Autism Eye Contact: It’s not Easy for ASD Kids

Autism Eye Contact: It’s Not Easy for ASD Kids

Read More

Social Skills and Navigating the Playground Part II

Read More

My Child with Autism Has No Friends. What Can A Parent Do to Help

Read More

Teaching Social Skills and Navigating the Playground

Read More

Autism Parenting Magazine