Autistic children seem to learn best when a variety of teaching methods are used. Here are some suggested methods that may be useful as you work with your child:
Role-playing gives them the opportunity to practice new skills in a safe environment. Parents or caregivers model the correct behavior such as smiling or extending one’s hand to another and children mimic them. Once the child is comfortable with interacting in this manner, he or she can begin to practice with other individuals and finally with peers. (Note: physical contact can be uncomfortable for many autistic children. Introduce ideas like shaking hands carefully based on your own child's preferences.)
Video modeling benefits those who communicate better through pictures than words as they can see other individuals modeling the appropriate behaviors. Illustrated posters and charts can combine words and images to increase memory skills as well as serve as a way of prompting the child’s memory. Some good images to use are those of children playing together or holding a conversation.
Structured discussions with carefully prepared questions that guide the child through the steps of holding a conversation are useful as well.
Reading stories on topics like friendships, manners and relationships are good ways to reinforce the other teaching methods. As a plus, because reading a book and looking at the pictures is fun, the kids do not realize that they are actually learning valuable lessons. Specially designed stories for children with learning disabilities, also called social stories, can be extremely helpful as well. These stories are simply illustrated and direct, which makes them easy to understand.