• Autism Help UK

How Does Autism Affect Social Interaction?

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Challenges with social interactions and social disconnect is normal in autism. The struggle to create relationships with family and others can bring about negative health effects such as loneliness. However, there are a few tips that can help your child make social interaction easier.

social interaction autism

The Concern

Autistic children tend to prefer to be by themselves, however this can cause health problems down the road. Problems that can arise from social disconnect include:

  • loneliness

  • depression

  • higher stress

  • health problems

This is why it is important to build up good relationships, as they can help relieve stress and bring joy and comfort into our lives. However, it can take time for autistic people to develop the social skills needed to create these relationships. That is why it is important to help build up these skills earlier rather than later.


Tips To Help

Social skills are important to have for everyday life. They help to:

  • build up relationships with family members- this helps create a sense of belonging

  • build up friendships- this helps alleviate loneliness and can help us grow by discovering new skills/hobbies our friends have.

  • understand how to act and react in different situations

To gain these benefits, you first need to understand what social skills your child needs to develop. Here are a few social skills to learn and tips to help develop them.


Conversation Skill

Being able to have a conversation is important in social interactions. This involves more than just speaking to another person, it involves using the right body language and understanding theirs as well as listening to the other person. Here are a few tips to help your child develop this skill.


1. Observation

Let your child observe your social interactions with other people. This can help them to see how a conversation works. This could be either a natural conversation or you could ask a friend/spouse to help show your child how to have a conversation.


2. Prompting

In conversations, it can be difficult to know what to say. Using prompt phrases can help with this. You could write down some phrases on cards for your child to choose from. You could turn this into a game and see how long your child can keep the conversation going. Or, when you have a conversation with your child, you could tell them what they could say next. Keep reminding them of this until they start to say the phrase by themselves. For example, after saying hello, you can teach them to say 'how are you doing?' next.


3. Social Stories

You could use social stories to help your child see the structure and rules of a conversation. You can choose different social stories based on your child's need. For example, you could choose a social story on being a good listener or staying on topic.


4. Play A Game

Pictionary and charades can be great games to play with your child to help them build up conversation skills. It can help them to learn about taking turns speaking and learning how to listen to others.



Emotional Skills

Being able to understand other emotions is important in building up relationships. It helps for understanding how to interact with the other person, whether they are being playful or if their sad and in need of comforting. It is also important for autistic children to understand how to manage their own feeling and what body language should be used to display their emotions. Here are a few ways you can help build this skill.


1.Emotion Cards

You can print off cards with different emotions on them and at certain times ask your child which one they identify with. You could start this off easy with just happy and sad emotions, and then over time gradually add in more emotions for your child to choose from. This helps you child to understand what they are feeling.


You could also use the cards as a game. Choose an emotion is ask if your child could replicate it, then ask them when they have felt that emotion. You could also see if they can identify that emotion in anyone else. This can help your child to recognise emotions in other people.


2. Tell Them

When your child is using a certain emotion, let them know. This can help them identify that emotion. For example, if they are laughing and being playful say 'you must be happy'.


3. Role Play

Role play conversations with your child and use different types of body language to help your child understand what body language connects to what emotion. You start this off slow with easier body languages, like a smile to show their happy, and then develop this over time. When you feel they are ready, you can get them to use different body languages during conversations.



Playing Skill

Playing is an important part of social skill. It involves being able to play and share with someone else.


1. Play With Your Child

Playing games with your child can help them know what to expect during play with others. You can play simple games with them like playing with teddies, but make sure they are playing with you. For example, pretend to play tea party with teddies. Through this show them how to share toys and taking turns.


As well as this, play challenges with your child so they can understand and cope with winning and loosing. You could play a game of snakes and ladders or connect four. Show them how they should react if they win or if they loose, remembering to show that emotion yourself when you win/loose.



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