Social Skills Activities for Autism to Help with Social Connections

social skills activities for autism

All individuals, including children with autism, need to develop social skills in order to build relationships and communicate effectively with others. Many children with autism have difficulty developing social skills and require direct instruction in this area. It is crucial to incorporate social skills activities for autism to help children develop and build these skills.

Understanding the Relation between Social Skills and Autism

Autistic children may have difficulty with the following:

  • Playing with peers
  • Responding when others talk to them or ask them to play
  • Making friends
  • Participating in conversation (taking turns, answering and asking questions, making comments)
  • Interpreting nonverbal language (facial expressions, gestures, emotions, tone of voice)
  • Interpreting nonliteral language (idioms, metaphors, sarcasm)

These social deficits have an impact on the daily life of children with autism. Children with autism may not respond to others or respond inappropriately if they misinterpret the words or actions of their communication partner. Because of their difficulty with relationships, the communication partners of autistic children (peers, teachers, family members) are also affected. 

The Importance of Utilizing Social Skills Games for Autism into the Daily Routine

It is important to directly target the development of social skills in children with autism. A great way to do this as parents and educators is to incorporate games and other autism social skills activities into their daily routines. 

Advantages of developing social skills include:

  • Making and keeping friends
  • Developing hobbies and interests and sharing them with others
  • Learning from and teaching others
  • Improved ability to cooperate and work in a group
  • Management of emotions
  • Ability to interpret emotional states of others and respond appropriately
  • Higher enjoyment of social situations
  • Satisfaction with life
  • Lower incidence of depression and isolation
  • Improved opportunities for future employment and success in the workplace

Social Skills Activities for Autism

Here are some autism games for social skills:

Game Activities

These social skills games for autism include options for groups or individuals.

Board Games

Board games are a fun way for children to learn and practice a variety of social skills. Using manners and being polite are important components of interacting with others. Encourage children to take turns, wish the opposing player(s) “good luck” before the game or “good game” afterwards. You can find an appropriate board game for most ages.

How Are They Feeling?

Since autistic children have difficulty interpreting facial expressions and emotions, they may need to be taught how to do so. One way to practice is with pictures. Show photographs of people portraying different emotions, and have the child tell you how the person is feeling. You can start by offering choices. Start with basic emotions (happy, sad, mad), and then add in more challenging ones (excited, surprised, tired, scared, bored, etc.). Use this activity with children in elementary to high school.

Communication Activities

Target communication and conversation skills with the following activities.

Role Playing

In order to prepare for upcoming or challenging situations, it can be a good idea to role play scenarios or conversations. Present a situation and assign roles to yourself and the child, and practice acting out the characters. Then switch roles. Discuss what went well and any changes that need to be made. You could practice ordering at a restaurant and have one person be the waiter and the other person be the customer. This activity can be used with children in late elementary to high school. 

What Would You Do?

Autistic children often don’t know how to respond in social situations or solve problems. Practicing going through various scenarios can help. Present social situations using pictures or stories. Ask the child what they would do or say in response. You may need to present choices and talk through options if there is more than one appropriate response. To take this activity to the next level, ask how each person in the situation might feel and why. If you make the social scenario appropriate to the age, you can use this activity with children in elementary school all the way up to high school. 

Group Activities

The following are social group activities for autism that can be done with a group of children or children and adults.

Name Game

This game encourages interaction with peers and helps children get to know each other. Children throw a ball to another child, and call out the name of the child they are throwing the ball to. Make sure the ball gets thrown to everyone in the group. This is a great game for elementary school aged children.

Would You Rather?

During this activity, children take turns answering “would you rather” questions, and then providing an explanation for their choice. Examples of questions include “Would you rather eat your favorite meal or your favorite dessert everyday?” or “Would you rather be covered in a sunburn or bug bites?” You can use different themes, such as seasons or holidays (e.g., Autumn, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc.). Depending on the questions asked, this activity can be adapted for any age group. 


For Storytime, you or one child starts a story. Then another person continues the story by adding a sentence. The story continues with each person adding a sentence. This helps children draw conclusions about given information and use events to make predictions. Use this activity with children in late elementary to high school. 

Creative Activities

These activities require more creativity and target more abstract social skills.

How Would You Feel?

Try this game to teach autistic children perspective-taking skills and empathy. It also helps children learn to read body language such as facial expressions and gestures. Read a book or watch a video clip. When something happens, ask the children how they would feel in that situation. Have the children choose the book or movie in order to increase interest and engagement. Children in early elementary to high school can complete this social skills activity. 


The ability to interpret body language is an important social skill, and the entire basis of the game Charades. Children take turns acting out books, movies, or television shows for others to guess. Have slips of paper with titles of books and movies for children to pull out of a bowl. The topics used can be adjusted for different ages, but this game works best with children in late elementary to high school. 

Motion Activities

Some students learn best through movement, so get moving!

Simon Says

Imitation is an early social skill. During this game, children have to imitate an action described by the person in the front of the group, but only if they say “Simon Says” first. This is a fun game for all ages.

Line Up

For this game, children have to get in a line based on the criteria or category you give them. For example, you could ask them to line up in alphabetical order or in order of birthday or height. This requires them to communicate with each other in order to determine the correct order. This game is appropriate for children in elementary to middle school.  

How to Choose the Right Activities

When deciding which activity to use, consider the individual needs of your student or child. 

Consider the following factors:

  • Age of the child. Make sure you choose activities that are appropriate for the child’s age and developmental level. For example, work on imitation with a young child rather than practicing conversation skills.
  • The child’s strengths and talents. The child will see the most benefit and therefore be more motivated to continue if they start with their strengths. Build on those skills as you target areas that are more challenging to the child.
  • The child’s challenges. While you want to target the areas that the child struggles in, you don’t need to start there. Allow the child to have some success first by beginning with activities they are able to do easily. Then use their areas of difficulty as target areas. Start small and allow for repeated opportunities for practice. 
  • The child’s hobbies and interests. As with all children, the child will be more interested and willing to participate in an activity that incorporates their interests. 
  • The child’s individual needs and goals. Consider what the child wants/needs to be able to do, as well as what you or the child’s teachers would like them to do. Be sure to choose activities that target those goals. Adjust the activities to make them fit the individual child.
  • Advice of professional clinicians and therapists. If the child is receiving other services, such as speech therapy or occupational therapy, ask the child’s therapists what kind of skills would benefit the child the most. Incorporate any practice activities they do in their therapy sessions at home. 
  • The child’s current level of communication skills. If the child is nonverbal, you may want to offer picture choices that they can point to in order to respond, or make sure they have access to their Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device. A child who is verbal can participate in conversation with others.
  • The child’s cognitive abilities. Some children benefit from explanations of what they are working on and why. Other children may not understand the reasoning behind the activity and require simple instructions or actions to imitate.
  • Access to practice opportunities with peers. If the child has access to peers, incorporate games that require multiple people. If the child isn’t able to practice with peers, start with one-on-one activities.

Tips and Ideas on Starting Social Skills Activities for Autism

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when starting to incorporate any of these social skills activities:

  • Provide clear, simple instructions. Too much auditory input can be confusing to a child with autism. Keep instructions simple and provide one step of the directions at a time. Having the instructions written out or providing visuals of each step can help.
  • Create a supportive environment. Create a calm environment by choosing a quiet location in the home. Reduce distractions and only have the necessary materials for the activities available.
  • Use visual supports. Provide pictures of the steps of an activity for your child to follow. You can also have pictures to represent the different activities, and allow the child to choose which activity they would like to do. This allows the child to feel like they have some authority in the situation and aren’t always being forced to do something they don’t want to.
  • Set up and stick to a routine. Children with autism benefit from a consistent routine. Decide ahead of time what your routine will be, and stick to it. Introduce the routine to your child and follow it every time so they know what to expect. This helps put them at ease.
  • Offer praise and positive reinforcement. All children benefit from praise when they do something well. Positive reinforcement encourages the child to repeat what they did. Try to make the reinforcement immediate so that the child knows what they did well. If the praise is given too long after the positive behavior, they may not make the connection between the two.
  • Include peers and family members. Children need to practice these skills with other people. Start by teaching the skills and introducing the activity in a one-on-one setting to prepare them. Then have siblings or friends join in. The more the child practices with other people, the more they will become used to interacting with a wide variety of people. 
  • Seek professional support and guidance. Seek out input from your child’s teachers and therapists. Present your ideas, ask questions, and turn to them to help you troubleshoot any issues that may arise. They are experts in the field and know your child as well.
  • Teach and model skills before, during, and after activities. You can’t expect your child to automatically perform the target skill if they have never done it before. Begin by teaching and modeling the target skill before the activity, and continue to teach and provide guidance throughout the activity.
  • Offer choices. There are several ways you can incorporate choices. After you have introduced several activities, allow the child to choose the activity. If you plan ahead of time, they can pick a friend or sibling they would like to practice with. If using a board game, book, or video clip, let them decide which one they like. 
  • Make it fun! Although it can feel stressful to help your child learn and improve their social skills, don’t be too serious. The child will pick up on your anxiety. Look at it as an opportunity to bond and spend some time with your child. Have fun together!

Using Forbrain to Help with Autism Spectrum Disorder

You can incorporate Forbrain into your social skills activities. An auditory stimulation headset, Forbrain lets students hear their own speech sounds clearer and louder. This can help autistic children focus on the activity they are participating in. The auditory feedback also helps children regulate their mood and energy, which are important when interacting with others.

Final Words

As you can see, social skills activities are an essential part of any child’s learning progress. They are especially important for children with autism since autistic children have difficulty learning these skills naturally. Incorporate these social skills activities for autism into a daily routine in order to help children with autism communicate and interact with others more effectively.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (Accessed 2023, September 16). Applied Behavior Analysis and Communication Services. ASHA. 

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (Accessed 2023, September 16). Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASHA. 

Amanda Unrau

Amanda is a speech language pathologist by day, and a freelance writer during the in between times. She has worked with children of all ages in a variety of private practice and school settings, as well as telepractice. She enjoys research and tries to make her speech therapy and writing as functional as possible.