Practicing Social Skills While Social Distancing

Thursday January 28, 2021 at 2:58 PM


Practicing Social Skills While Social Distancing

Maintaining distance from others can be difficult for all of us, but social distancing guidelines presents unique challenges for children with autism. For a child working to overcome various social skills deficits, having even fewer opportunities to practice these skills is a significant hurdle. Our very own Erika Eckert, Supervising BCBA in Sterling Heights, offers advice for parents facing this dilemma in the January issue of Metro Parent.

Eckert begins by focusing on strategies to broaden communication at home, starting with the basics like a child responding to simple greetings or responding to their name, skills that are important to early learners. For children who don’t yet possess expressive language skills, focusing on simple non-verbal forms of communication like making eye contact or waving can be a great place to start. For those with developing language skills, Eckert suggests activities that the child might otherwise participate in at school or daycare, such as filling in songs. For instance, you could start signing “old McDonald had a…,” encouraging the child to complete the line with “farm.” Parents of more advanced learners might focus on higher level skills like labeling emotions, perhaps making use of examples from TV, movies, or simply events that take place in the home.

Eckert offers further examples of household games and activities that incorporate social skills in a naturalistic way, according to the child’s age and skill level. Simple cause-and-effect play, building with blocks for example, can create opportunities for the child to practice joint attention skills. Various forms of cooperative play, like board games, can be a great way to bring the family together and practice skills like turn-taking for moderate or advanced learners. Finally, Eckert recommends social stories as yet another tool for helping children prepare for potentially difficult experiences outside of the home, from going to the grocery store to visiting the dentist.

While our current environment may present additional challenges for children on the spectrum, the examples in this article illustrate the many ways, both familiar and creative, that parents can continue to make a positive impact on their child’s social development.

For more advice and information related to autism and ABA therapy, please follow our blog and social media posts. We hope you have a great day!

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