Milestones Autism Resources

4853 Galaxy Parkway, Suite A
Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

Phone: (216) 464-7600

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Social Communication

Ultimately, the goal as parents is to ensure our children are safe, happy and as independent as possible. Teaching functioning communication skills is critical to ensuring their needs and wants are met.

It can feel overwhelming to help your autistic child learn the basics of social communication, but evidence-based strategies and tools can help. Speech Language Therapy, structured social skills groups and other therapies can be used to systematically teach children communication skills.

  • Does your child have functional communication skills?
  • Can your child communicate they need a break?
  • Can your child make a choice?
  • Can they say no without a meltdown?

Ideas to help your child with social communication and social skills

Communication includes gestures, voice output from technology devices, sign language and spoken words. 

Here are some tips to get you started

Use visual supports, such as written word, phrase or sentence prompts; written or picture schedules; PECS; video modeling; social stories.

Start social skills/social communication therapy with a speech therapist, psychologist, social worker and/or ABA practitioner that works with autistic children. Consider social skills group opportunities. Based on your child’s specific communication needs, these suggested communication tools and interventions should be incorporated into your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Milestones can help you find these resources through the Milestones free autism Helpdesk or individual or family consultations.

Connect with other parents who have been there and can share their experiences. They can also help you find resources.

Build on your child’s interests. It can be difficult to push a child to do something they are not interested in or if there are barriers that make it hard for them to participate. Keep in mind your child’s challenges including sensory issues when considering different activities or therapies. Look for opportunities open to or geared to children with special needs and speak with the leader.

For those children who express some interest in other children, it is common to see parallel play (also called side-by-side play) which means sitting next to someone playing separately. The goal is to encourage and build toward collaborative and pretend play, but don’t be discouraged if this is slow to evolve or isn’t realistic.

Depending on your child’s interest in other children, encourage friendships through play dates, plan activities that can engage both children and practice skills in a social skills/social communication small group setting.

Over time children develop and change at their own pace, so what they need evolves as do the kind of providers, activities and interests that will engage them and help them grow.

Additional Resources

Camp, Social & Recreation Tool Kit

Afterschool Activities & Independent Leisure Skills Tool Kit

Social Skills Reading List

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Need assistance? Let Milestones be your local guide.

Unsure of where to start? Contact our free Helpdesk with your questions, and we will do the research for you!

Visit and complete an intake form.