Conversation Skills Activities for Autism (7 Useful Techniques)
In this blog, we will describe conversation skills activities for people with autism. We will first understand why autistic people struggle with conversation skills. Then, we will explain in detail how to do these activities and why they work.
What are some Conversation Skills Activities for Autism?
There are many ways to build conversation skills in people with autism. The list below names a few of them:
- Role Play
- Make a Communication Binder
- Emotion Charades
- Topic Game
- Act Out Stories
- Whole Body Listening
Why do People with Autism Struggle with Conversation Skills?
When someone has autism, they tend to speak with a different rhythm, prosody, and/or volume than others. As a result, they may end up using inappropriate words or ways while having a conversation.
Autism interferes with one’s development of language skills, making it hard for them to understand what others are saying to them. Moreover, they have trouble with non-verbal communication too, like hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions.
Therefore, autistic people have a tough time training themselves to speak in socially approved ways. That’s why it’s quite common for people with autism to use scripts for conversations.
7 Conversation Skills Activities for Autism
In this section, we are going to describe seven conversation skills activities that can help people with autism to have more successful social interactions. Let’s begin!
Some social situations can be anticipated before they happen. For example, you can expect conversations in social situations you have to experience daily like meals with the family, going to school or work, and taking public transport.
So, it’s a good idea to rehearse these situations with your caregiver through role play. Think of some recurring social situations that seem stressful to you and practice what and how to have a conversation appropriately.
Since small talk is particularly difficult for people with autism, it’s a good idea to go over scripts on how to talk and listen in each particular situation.
Sometimes, it helps to see what a successful social interaction looks like. This can be done through modelling. One way is to have two people act out a conversation in front of you. But, it’s also helpful to watch videos of such interactions.
A live performance may seem more realistic and authentic but videos can be replayed over and over again till you have every detail noted. There are plenty of resources for such material available online.
Make a Communication Binder
If you’re a caregiver of someone with autism, this might be a fun activity for you to do with them. As you know the individual personally, and spend a good deal of time with them, you’ll know exactly which social situations are recurring and stressful.
Create scripts using pictures and step-by-step instructions for each situation and make a homemade communication binder for your loved one. Then, go through it as many times as you can with the autistic individual. This can serve as their go-to reference book for difficult conversations.
Emotional charades is a game more suited for younger people with autism but anyone on the spectrum can definitely benefit from it. The idea is to practice recognising facial expressions and people’s emotions.
It has to be played with a caregiver and preferably with a mirror nearby. Pick an emotion, positive or negative, and act it out using your facial muscles. Hold the expression for a few minutes and observe the nuances of it in yourself and the other person.
Most autistic people have a hard time sticking to the topic of the conversation. This skill can be developed using the topic game. It’s pretty simple and becomes more fun if friends and family join in.
Choose any topic; it can be as simple as fruits and vegetables or something a bit more complex like elements in the periodic table. For beginners, it’s best to choose a topic that really interests the autistic individual.
Then, go through the alphabet naming one topic-related item for each letter. For example, A – Argon, B – Barium, C – Carbon, and so on. Of course, you can skip any letter that’s impossible to work with.
Act Out Stories
Another activity more suited to children, this requires a story book with a relevant topic. There are plenty of children’s books that focus on making conversations and developing social skills.
You can read these stories out loud and act out the series of events. Much like role play and modelling, this gives the autistic individual an immersive experience in how to communicate with others in social interactions.
Whole Body Listening
Finally, whole body listening is a way to develop listening skills for successful conversations. As people with autism tend to miss out on social cues and take time to process sensory information, they may not always appear as good listeners.
But since listening is an equally important part of the conversation, one must develop this skill. In whole body listening, there are concrete instructions for various body parts and what to do with them when someone is talking.
Your eyes need to look at the person talking, both ears ready to hear, your mouth quiet (no talking, humming, or making sounds), your hands quietly in your lap or pockets or by your side, your feet quiet on the floor, your body facing the speaker, your brain thinking about what is being said, and your heart caring about what the speaker is saying.
In this blog, we described conversation skills activities for people with autism. We first understood why autistic people struggle with conversation skills. Then, we explained in detail how to do these activities and why they work.
The communication skills activities mentioned here were Role Play, Modelling, Make a Communication Binder, Emotion Charades, Topic Game, Act Out Stories, and Whole Body Listening.
FAQs (Conversation Skills Activities for Autism)
What is a reciprocal conversation?
Think of reciprocal conversations as a ping pong match. As one player serves, the other needs to hit it back for the game to continue. In a reciprocal conversation, two people take turns in saying something to add to the discussion. Practicing reciprocal conversations using sports and games can really help someone with autism.
How do you teach conversation skills to preschoolers?
With toddlers, the best way to teach is by modelling, breaking down the task into smaller ones, and praising them for each step towards progress. You can even encourage them to practice what they learnt through role playing games. Nevertheless, the most important step in this process is to praise them effusively.
What does high functioning autism feel like?
Just like everyone else on the autism spectrum, someone with high functioning autism will also struggle with social skills. They may have a hard time with social interactions, conversations, and picking up social cues. This can make it hard for them to make friends. If a social situation becomes too stressful for them, they might experience an outburst or shut down.