Many autistic children develop language skills at a different rate and in a different order from typically developing children. This means they might not understand what you say to them or might have difficulty following instructions. Some autistic children can find it difficult to use spoken language to ask for things or tell other people what they’re thinking or feeling.
Differences in communication can make social situations like playing with other children a little more difficult.
You can use strategies like role-play and video-modelling to build social skills for autistic children. These strategies can also help with building social skills for autistic teenagers and conversation skills for autistic teenagers.
High-level skills and autism
We need a range of high-level skills and abilities to do daily tasks like working cooperatively with others and prioritising things. These skills include:
- paying attention
- coping with change
- being organised, managing time and remembering things
- managing emotions.
These skills develop over time and are affected by other skills like language and thinking.
Autistic children often develop these high-level skills at different rates from typically developing children. These differences can affect autistic children’s learning and their ability to show adults what they’ve learned. For example, a child might know they have to summarise a news story for geography homework, but have difficulty working out how to get started, or they might have maths and English homework and have difficulty prioritising which one to do first, or they might have difficulty coping when they make a mistake.
Some autistic children need to work hard on learning and developing these skills right into adulthood.
Difficulties with high-level skills and abilities can sometimes lead to challenging behaviour. Social stories, visual timetables and other strategies can help you with managing challenging behaviour in autistic children and teenagers.
Attention to detail and autism
Autistic children often have strengths in noticing details and patterns. For example, some autistic children might learn letters, numbers, and shapes more easily than typically developing children. And some autistic children might notice things that other child might not notice.
Sometimes, their strong attention to detail might mean that autistic children need support to see ‘the big picture’. They might notice a lot of details in a situation, but not be able to put that information together to figure out what it all means. For example, if they read The very hungry caterpillar, they might remember that the caterpillar liked strawberries, but not understand that the caterpillar’s food helps it grow into a butterfly.