Here’s A Quick Social Skill For Children On The Autism Spectrum

improve social skills for children with autism

Improve Social Skills For Children With Autism

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”

— M. Scott Peck

I remember attending a counseling skills training seminar.

We worked on some role play of effective listening skills.  I found that when I felt the person ‘counseling’ me truly listened, I really felt cared for.

And it reminded me of how important it is for me to listen carefully to my friends, co-workers, bosses, and loved ones.

Yet how many times have we been accused, “You’re not listening to me!”

Children, teens, and adults on the autism spectrum may often encounter this.

Listening is easier said than done.  Yet, done effectively, listening will improve social skills for children with autism.

I’m going to share a quick social skill called Listening Position with you.  It’s taken from Jed E. Baker’s book, Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Asperger Syndrome.

Here are the 4 Steps of Effective Listening Position

1.  Make eye contact.

You may want to read why it’s essential to think with your eyes.

2.  Stay still.

It’s important to explain to children (and to remind ourselves) that we listen with our bodies as well as with our eyes.  In other words, we face the person who is speaking to us with our whole body.  We need to quiet our hands and feet.

3.  Don’t interrupt.  Do not talk while others are talking.

This point is very important.  A lot of kids (and adults) on the autism spectrum may ask “Why” this is so important.  It’s because if we only talk about what’s interesting to us, the person talking will feel upset and angry.  Being quiet and listening to what the other person is saying shows that you care about him/her.  Otherwise, you will be considered rude.  And, if you’re in class, you might even get in trouble.

4.  If you are in class and you want to say something, raise your hand and wait to be called on.

Here are some suggested activities for practicing the listening position.

a) As a parent or teacher, model the correct way and the wrong way to listen.

Don’t tell the student which is right and which is wrong.  Ask the student to tell you what you did right or wrong.

Here are some suggested role-play activities:

  • Listening to a story time or lesson in class
  • Listening to a parent give instructions
  • Listening to another student during ‘show and tell’
  • Raising your hand to ask a question about a lesson or to ask permission to go to the bathroom during class time

b) Now reverse roles:

have the child role play listening position in the above scenarios.  (Or, you can make up some other scenarios).

Give the child feedback on correct or incorrect listening positions.

c) Design some fun rewards for appropriate listening position going forward.

  • Give generous praise whenever you notice your child or student demonstrating the appropriate listening position.
  • Create a listening jar.  Give your child/student a penny every time s/he demonstrates appropriate listening position.  Once the jar is full, you can give the child a special reward (e.g., snack, stickers, and privileges to play a special game or watch a special show.

Encourage Your Child To Practice In Other Situations

At the beginning of the day, ask your child:

Who will you try this listening position with?

When will you practice your listening position today?

At the end of the day, ask your child:

What happened?

How did you do?

I hope you found this brief social skills training exercise helpful for your Aspergers child or student.  Please share it with a friend!

photo credit: luquene
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About Stephen Borgman

 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.
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