Prioritize Social Skills Before Other Skills from the Autism Treatment Center of America and The Son-Rise Program

“As an autism parent, there are many skills that you might like your child to learn. From holding a spoon, toilet-training, brushing their teeth, buttoning their pants, learning to read… Plus lots more!

These are all beneficial skills for your child on the autism spectrum to accomplish; however, nothing is more valuable than inspiring your child to be social.

“Why Focus on Social Skills Before Other Skills?

“Being social and connecting with people is your child on the autism spectrum’s biggest challenge. Being social means your child’s ability to engage with another person for extended periods. All other skills you’d like to help them with depend on this. You can help them with other skills, too… once you have strengthened their ability to connect and relate to others. That’s because our children can most easily learn other skills directly from people. For example, suppose you want to help your child to brush their teeth. In that case, you need to:

  • “Role-model the skill.
  • “Give instructions about how to do it.
  • “Have them practice the skill.
  • “Eventually, master the skill independently.

“If your child only currently engages with you for a minute or two, then there is simply not enough time to do all these steps.

“Two Ways to Help Your Child Feel More Confident with Their Social Skills.


“Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate! Yes! When your child engages with you, whether they look into your eyes, make a sound, say a word (or sentence), take your hand, or initiate a game with you. Anything that your child does to engage with you, you want to cheer your child on for doing it. Celebrating your child inspires them to keep doing what they are doing and helps them feel successful. Celebrate with your words, your face, and your body so your child knows how valuable connecting with others is.

“Entertain Your Child. After you celebrate your child and they are still engaging with you, do something funny or exciting to inspire your child to keep engaging with you. Use the things your child loves to do. If they love a particular song, sing that song in a fun way. If they love movement, do a silly dance for your child. If your child likes animals, pretend to be a monkey and make a monkey sound. Entertaining your child gives them something fun to look at and enjoy. They also don’t have to work hard to enjoy the show you are putting on for your child.


“When you Celebrate and Entertain your child, they will be able to engage for longer with you. They will have more opportunities to practice first, strengthening their social skills. The more they do this, the longer their interactive attention span will become. The more attention your child has toward you, the more opportunities you will have to help them with other skills.

“Everything begins here.”


By Becky Damgaard, Senior Son-Rise Program Teacher

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