Working to Improve Social Skills in Adults with Autism

Everybody desires friendships and connection, and in that regard, adults with autism are no different. When it comes to social situations, adults on the autism spectrum may need help learning how to interact with others. Struggling to know what is acceptable behavior can make social group activities overwhelming and undesirable. People with autism have different ways of communicating, which can impede their sense of participation in their community. But, with practice, their confidence and social skills can improve, leading to a life full of friendship and happiness. Here are 5 tips that teachers and parents can implement to help an individual with autism improve their social skills.

Social Skills Training for Adults with Autism

  1. Share feedback.

    Receiving productive, non-judgmental feedback on a growing skill is beneficial for everyone. Adults with autism may need to adjust their communication skills to a more appropriate manner. Providing constructive criticism to a specific social interaction problem can give individuals confidence for acting appropriately in future social situations.

  2. Offer social skills groups.

    According to Autism Speaks, social skills groups can greatly improve a person with autism’s social interactions through practice and encouragement. These groups train them on cooperation, partnership, and social concepts. Because people with autism tend to be concrete learners, social skills groups provide concrete actions that are broken down from more abstract social concepts. These groups have the ability to cultivate self-awareness in social situations and provide real-life opportunities for practice.

  3. Use personalized teaching stories.

    People with autism tend to be visual learners. Practicing personalized teaching stories (going to a restaurant, handling a bully, etc.) can make everyday social situations predictable. People with autism are able to use these teaching stories to gain social skills through pictures and simple language. On top of practice, these stories also provide strategies for dealing with various social scenarios in an effective and appropriate manner. Autism Speaks has a variety of templates for parents to use.

  4. Give positive reinforcement.

    Making sure to reinforce positive behavior is essential for building appropriate social skills. Specifically in a classroom climate, a teacher should reinforce any behavior that a student with autism does well socially. Using concrete reinforcement and praise that is specific to the desired behavior can help build a pattern of using proper social interactions.

  5. Set a good example.

    Modeling social skills such as reciprocity and empathy can teach adults with autism that these social interactions are positive. A parent or teacher should exhibit these traits, as well as identify others who demonstrate positive social skills. Teaching context clues by referencing the surrounding people can improve the development of these skills. For example, “If everyone else is waiting in line, you should too!”, or, “If everyone else is quiet, you should try staying quiet as well.” Teachers and parents can play a major role in helping individuals with autism improve their social skills. Therefore, it’s important to remember to always engage in an autism-friendly manner. Take a look at our blog post on How to Interact With Adults who have Autism.


Join the Covey Community

Covey is a nonprofit organization located in Appleton and Oshkosh, Wisconsin. We create an autism-friendly environment (both virtual and in-person) where individuals with disabilities are encouraged to develop social skills and self-awareness, build friendships, and pursue their passions.

One exciting program that we offer is community engagement. Our fun social activities and experiences encourage our clients to grow their relationships and open up to a new group of friends. Most importantly, these skills empower individuals to do more than they ever thought they could. Community engagement is especially important for adults with disabilities because it breaks down barriers and gives them opportunities to progress toward greater independence and overall happiness.

For more information on Covey’s social activities and community engagement, visit covey.org.