Social Skills Deficits – Lighthouse Autism Center

Many autistic children struggle with social interactions due to social skills deficits. Read our blog to learn more about what social deficits are, how this can affect your autistic child’s life and the steps you can take to help them improve or overcome their social deficits.

Understanding Social Skills Deficits in Autistic Children

Many autistic children struggle with the basic social skills that many of us take for granted. Join us to learn more about the deficits in social skills for autistic kids, how to spot them and what impact they may have on an autistic child’s life.

What are social skills deficits in autistic children?

To understand the social skills challenges that autistic children (and adults) face, we must first define what social skills are.

Social skills can be understood as the skills that we use to communicate. These include verbal and nonverbal communication methods, such as our words and tone, gestures and body language. More complex social skills also include understanding social norms, seeking social engagement, understanding emotions, etc. Social skills are important because they allow us to build and maintain relationships with others and communicate with others to get our needs met, which in turn provides us with many benefits, such as happiness, social satisfaction and career advancement.

However, many autistic people often have certain social skills deficits. Note that autism does not present identically in everyone, so your child may not display all (or even any) of these deficits. Some key examples include:

  • Has little to no interest in social interactions
  • Struggles to listen and follow conversations
  • Doesn’t understand body language, including facial expressions
  • Inability to follow instructions or directions
  • Speaks excessively during a conversation or interrupts frequently
  • Lack of nonverbal social communication, such as pointing
  • Unable to initiate or continue conversations
  • Unable to empathize and build rapport with others
  • Inability to understand or respond appropriately to the emotions of others 
  • Takes everything said to them literally

The impact of a lack of social skills

For an autistic child, a deficit in key social skills can have harmful consequences. These consequences include:

  • Social rejection and isolation
  • Inability to perform at school due to social rejection
  • Increased levels of aggression, anxiety, depression, loneliness and stress
  • Poorer health due to lack of social connection

How to help autistic children who lack social skills

The good news is that many aspects of social skills can be taught or improved. This can have numerous benefits for an autistic child, including lower stress levels, better outcomes, a stronger social network and more success throughout their life.

Here are some tips to help improve social communication deficits in autistic children.

Lead by example

As a parent, one of the easiest ways to help your child better understand how to interact with others is by leading by example. Your child will mimic you, including your social interactions, so being a good role model for your child will help them develop good social skills.


Is it your autistic child’s first day at school? Perhaps they’re going to a birthday party for the first time? Or maybe another child has just taken their favorite toy? Whatever the situation is, you can help your child be prepared by roleplaying both expected and unexpected events that may take place in their life.

Practice using toys and games

Another important way for your child to improve their social skills is by using games that encourage the skills you want them to learn. For example, have a tea party with their stuffed animals and play out how the party should go with your child and her toys. A game that has turns, such as checkers or chess, is another great way to help your child understand the concept of taking turns with other people. 

Encourage interactions with neurotypical children

Whatever situation your autistic child is in, it’s important that you provide them with opportunities to engage with neurotypical peers, either in a formal schooling environment or through specifically arranged events or playdates. Both neurodiverse and neurotypical kids can learn a lot from each other, so getting them to socialize healthily can be a win-win!

Be on the lookout for buddy programs

Your autistic child can also learn from people who are older than them but not necessarily adults. There are programs that offer autistic children the chance to interact with older individuals who can act as a type of mentor by helping your autistic child learn and improve their social skills through various activities that are part of the buddy program. This can be especially helpful if you’re able to find an older neurodivergent person as a mentor – their lived experience will likely have equipped them with healthy coping strategies and techniques they can help your child with.

Praising successful social interactions

If your autistic child has a positive interaction with a peer or adult, it’s important to let them know they did a good job. This will encourage them to interact positively with others in the future. 

Specific social skills lessons

If you are unable to assist your child yourself, it’s important that you enroll them in a school environment that provides them with specific social skills lessons or seek out the assistance of a specialist who can help them outside of a school setting. Many health professionals, including psychologists and occupational therapists, can assist you and your child with learning and improving their social interactions.

Discover how Lighthouse Autism Therapy Centers can help your autistic child

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we provide a unique approach to ABA therapy that helps your child change, learn or improve certain behaviors. This approach is known as Lighthouse Fusion® ABA therapy and combines ABA and speech therapy into an enhanced therapeutic program for autistic children. We also provide extensive autism resources to help you better understand autism, how it affects your child and more.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

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