Building Social Skills Three Strategies to Support Your Child in Making Friends

Does your child have a hard time interpreting nonverbal cues and interacting with others? Do they have trouble understanding other people’s emotions? If so, they may need some extra help making friends and learning social skills.  

Here are ways you can support your child. 

Enroll Them in a Social Skills Group  

One of the ways you can help your child make friends is by signing them up for a social skills group. This is a good place for them to work on improving their communication and social interaction skills. Typically, a social skills group includes two to eight children who are close in age and meet at regularly scheduled times with a trained clinician.   

During these group sessions, participants engage in activities like modeling, roleplay, watching videos, playing games and other exercises. The goal is to help them learn how to properly interact with others while having fun in various situations.  

Remember that social skills groups vary in format and effectiveness, so it’s important to find a group where participants are at a similar developmental level to your child. 

Schedule a Playdate  

Since children socialize through play, scheduling a playdate for your child can also help them learn vital skills and appropriate behaviors. If your child has a friend, neighbor or family member that they feel comfortable with, that could be a good place to start.   

Another recommendation is to make sure that the playdate is structured. Maybe start with a physical activity like swinging, before moving to a calmer activity like coloring and then ending with a snack. This way, you provide your child with a beginning and an end. You may also want to keep the playdate short. Playing and socializing can be exhausting for children with autism so make sure your child isn’t overextended.  

Find People with Similar Interests  

It’s easier to make friends with someone who shares similar interests. So, if your child has a particular interest in art, for example, you could sign them up for an art class. Or if they enjoy science, you could look for an after-school program. Another option is to consider other local groups like the Special Olympics that provide autism-friendly environments.   

Last, you can help your child practice making friends by talking about what to say and do when they meet someone they like. This will help them feel more comfortable and know what