3 tips to teaching social skills to people with Autism.

May 14, 2016 4:04 pm Published by

Person is hiding behind book entitled 'Coping with shyness'.


A few years ago, one of our staff had a theme of “today in the dog park” throughout a social skills class that he taught. At the beginning of each class, he would open with an awkward social moment that happened while he interacted with people there. Sometimes it was something he did or said, and other times it was what other people did or said.

Some of the scenarios were slightly embellished for story telling purposes, but the example itself was 100% true. Right away, he was able to connect and level with his listeners.

The hidden message in it all; We all need social skills class no matter what your diagnosis is.

For many individuals with autism and other learning disabilities, social skills become more like acting and putting on a play than what comes naturally to them. Over time, it sinks in, but initially the real world is like stepping onto the stage and reciting a foreign language, in a native dance, for the first time. It’s hard.
To those who are teaching social skills to their son or daughter, or have found themselves in a teaching role, here are three tips towards being more successful and create more results.

Tip # 1: Stop being so serious.

Seriously, it is hard enough to learn anything when it isn’t fun, but learning social skills are the worst when the person teaching them isn’t enjoying it or connecting with their students.

Imagine that all day you are told that what you are doing isn’t socially acceptable. Your performance in school, social interactions, and personal life are constantly being criticized by peers, teachers and parents. Deep down, all you want to be doing is what makes you happy, and preferably by yourself. If someone starts lecturing you are on how to interact with other people, are you really going to want to listen? Most likely, no.

If social skill development came easy to individuals on the autism spectrum, it would be one less giant hurdle to go around. The reality is, many individuals who struggle with social anxiety and who are socially “awkward”, will benefit from learning the skills to help them feel better in social scenarios. Recognize it is very hard for them. Don’t complicate it. Make it fun.

Tip # 2: Bring in personal scenarios:

Rapport building is one of the biggest influences in helping anyone develop an educational relationship. As a social skills teacher, you need to be on the same page as the individuals you are helping. While you are still their teacher and educator, that doesn’t mean you can’t relate to them. Look into your own experiences and use them to help get to the point you are trying to make.

Again, social skills can be very stressful for a lot of people. If they feel you know what they are going through, then the likelihood of them connecting and hearing what you have to say is much higher. Some could say, toss your ego out the window!

Note: We guarantee you don’t have perfect social skills 100% of the time!

Tip # 3: Experience in small steps:

It’s been 3 months of working on eye contact with your client or child and you are seeing their improvement each time you have a one on one conversation. As soon as you go out into slightly larger social scenario, say 2 or 3 people, the eye contact disappears and you feel you are back to square one.


Social skills (and everything else for that matter), take a lot of time and practice in order for a person to become comfortable. Remember the acting example. Each time they practice this skill in front of a bigger audience, they are typically going to be more nervous until they feel conformable with the larger audience. This is families tend to report different social skill levels than teachers at school. It’s a part of the learning process and it is absolutely okay.

Role play. Have a change of scenery. Work on the skills in groups. All of these scenarios can help create better well-rounded social skill development. Each step counts towards building strong social skills, but more so, strong self confidence in social settings.
Remember, it takes time to help someone work on their social skills because it isn’t an easy thing for them naturally. You have to recognize that the majority of the people learning the skills, outside of normal development, understand they are behind. Most are embarrassed and generally confused. Go at their pace and make it fun.




Team Beacon Transitions




Beacon Transitions is a short term residential program that helps prepare young adults with ASD, aspergers, and other learning differences for a life of creative independence. We work with our residents by developing opportunities to learn, experience, and apply independent living skills in order to reach their true potential. If you have an interest in our program, reach out to us through our contact page, or email us at info@beacontransitions.com

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