Why is back and forth conversation difficult for kids with autism?

This article will explain why back and forth conversations may be hard for kids that have autism. It will also explain what autism is, and what are ways to teach a kid with autism how to have a back and forth conversation.

Why is back and forth conversation difficult for kids with autism?

Children with autism may have a hard time having a back-and-forth conversation for some reason. The first one may be that children with autism will usually have trouble acknowledging there is another person that is part of that interaction.

This is not just noticeable through talking back and forth. It may be easy for you to notice that children with autism can have trouble playing with other children or even be in the same space as others. 

In a conversation, you will most likely notice that the children with autism will tell you everything they know about something they are passionate about, but if you say one thing, they may not respond to it, or only do so in an awkward way. This can seem boring to other children, who won’t know how to interact.

Another reason why kids with autism may have trouble having a back and forth conversation has to do with the difficulty they have in capturing the non-verbal social cues. 

A child with autism will most likely never look the other person in the eye, so they won’t be able to recognize when the other person wants to say something about the matter that is being talked about. 

It may also be hard for them to have a back and forth conversation because the spectrum of topics they are willing to talk about is often limited. Children with autism usually have some very particular interests and will dive deep into them. This is another thing that can make it harder for other children to interact with them, since they may not share the same interest.

What is autism?

Autism is a developmental disability that has no cure. It happens in a spectrum, so it can be milder in some people, and more severe in others. Autism is something that will impact the person’s social skills, communication, ability to self-regulate, and relationships.

In some of the more severe cases, autism can lead the person to be non-verbal. But it will usually lead them to have atypical speech patterns. A person with autism will also have trouble understanding non-verbal communication and making friends.

They can often repeat words and phrases, something that is called echolalia. But they will also have repetitive movements, and preferences for some topics or behaviors. They can often have trouble dealing with instability or change in the routine and can be extremely sensitive to stimuli such as loud noise.

There is still a need to research what causes a person to be autistic. But it is known that being diagnosed early, following the treatment, and having the appropriate stimulation can help the child with autism to develop better

So if your child has been diagnosed with autism, there may be some ways you can help them improve their ability to have a back and forth conversation. Let’s discuss what they are.

How can I teach-back and forth conversation to my child that has autism?

If you have a child that has autism, know that there are some ways you can help them practice their conversation skills, so they can maybe improve a little on having back and forth conversations. Here are some things you can do.

Identify what is the problem 

If you wish to stimulate your child into having a back and forth conversation, the first thing you need to do is understand what the problem is. It can happen differently for each child. 

Some may find it easier to keep a conversation when it centers on a topic they enjoy. But will have no interest in keeping going when the subject changes. Others may find it easy to start a conversation but won’t know how or when to respond to other people. 

You should also observe if your kid looks at the other person when they are talking, or if they respond when the other person asks them something. All of this will help you understand what are the skills that you need to focus on practicing with them.

Use visual support 

When you have determined your kids’ needs, you may use visual support to help them when it is the time for them to talk, when it is the time for them to listen, and when it is the time for them to respond.

For that, you can use a speaking stick, and make a deal with them that whoever has the stick can talk, and the other person needs to listen. Or draw some signs as the traffic signs, and teach them that when it is red it is their time to wait and listen, and when it turns green, it is their time to talk.

Use topics and questions 

Another way of helping them in back and forth conversation is by writing down several topics of conversation on little pieces of paper and putting them in a bowl. You can vary the topics to school life, their interests, their routine, and so on.

Each of you takes a turn, and as you pick a paper in the bowl, you will say something about that topic. To practice their listening skills you can start with shorter comments, and make them longer little by little.

Record and talk about it

You can also practice their back and forth talking skills by recording them as they interact with other people, and later on watching it over with them. When you do that, you can, in a caring and supportive way, begin to show them where they could have asked more questions, and what other things they could have said.

You can also watch a scene of a movie with them, in which two people are having a back and forth conversation, and talk it over with them about how this conversation is happening. How each person has their time talking and so on.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Why is back and forth conversation difficult for kids with autism? 

What are the signs I should look for to see if my kid has autism?

If you are suspecting your kid has depression, there are some red flags you can keep an eye on. The first thing is if you notice they are not answering when you call their name. This can happen in four out of five children that are diagnosed with the autism spectrum, and it can be the first indicator that something is going on.

Aside from that, you may realize that they are not imitating any behaviors people around them do, and since this is an indicator of social skill, it can show that they are having trouble with that. 

Children that are on the autism spectrum will also display fewer emotions, and even though that doesn’t mean they are not feeling things, it will mean that they will show less of what they feel.

A child on the autism spectrum will also have trouble participating in moments of joint attention. For example, if they are in school, and the teacher calls out and says “Hey, look at this” to the class, the child with autism will likely not look. Finally, you may want to observe if your child can imagine things. 

That is because, by the time they become two years old, they will begin to play, and interact mostly based on their imagination. And that is hard for children with autism to do.

What are the most common symptoms of autism?

When a person has one of the conditions on the autism spectrum, they will have trouble keeping eye contact, and they may have delayed speech and communication skills. People with autism will often get a sense of security from sticking to routine, and rules.

And when there is a slight change in their surroundings, it can lead them to be extremely upset. They can also have intense reactions to smells, sounds, tastes, or even touches. And it may be harder for them to understand people’s emotions.

A person with autism may also develop an interest in something specific to a point that they can become obsessed with it. They may also have a pattern of repetitive behavior such as flapping hands.

What is mild autism?

Since autism disorders happen on a spectrum, it means that the intensity of it can change from one person to the next. When a person has mild autism, which is also called High Functioning Autism (HFA). An example of mild autism is Asperger Syndrome.

When a person has mild autism, they will most likely have problems with back and forth conversation, and trouble developing and maintaining relationships. They may also have repetitive actions, activities, or even words. Aside from having self-stimulating behavior, such as rocking back and forth.

They will also have focused interests and can be extremely sensitive, or completely indifferent to sensations.

How is autism diagnosed?

If you suspect someone close to you has autism, know that there are some ways they can be diagnosed. It can happen through a formulated interview called Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI)- Revised, or Autism Diagnosis Observation Schedule (ADOS). It is also possible that a person is diagnosed with autism through an IQ test.

What are the forms of treatment for autism?

Although there is no cure for autism, there are some ways that the child can be cared for to develop in the best way they can. For that, they will most likely need behavioral therapy, or play and development therapy which will help them develop their behaviors, and deal with their emotions better.

Aside from that, they may need speech therapists to help them with their conversation skills, and occupational therapy to help them deal with sensory issues. 

Because children with autism can have low muscle tone, they may also need physical therapy, and sometimes they may also need medication to help them, for example, to deal with anxiety or mood disorders that can happen when someone has autism.


This article explained why it may be hard for kids with autism to have a back and forth conversation. It also explained what autism is, and how it is possible to teach them to have a back and forth conversation.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.





What is Autism?

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