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The Personal Greeting: The Most Important Social Skill To Practice With Your Child With Autism

greeting social skill for children with autism
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Social skills often seem so obvious, that it is difficult for adults to explain to their children the steps to meet, converse, and communicate with others. To be clear, it takes more than just the ability to speak. Learning to greet someone (or everyone) is a perfect place to start practicing many of those social skills together. Think about how impactful it is when a person takes a moment to greet you by name, look at you earnestly, smile, and actively listen.

Saying “Hello” and shaking hands may seem simple, but it is more complex than that. In reality, it’s a significant component of both first impressions and ongoing relationships. It is an important cultural ceremony and it sets the tone of interactions with others.

At Solstice Behavioral Health and Consulting, we know that great strides start with small steps. Learning to greet others is an effective way to begin and reinforce social skills that your child will need for the rest of their life. Our ABA Therapy program will incrementally build on this foundation and facilitate the development of social skills such as clear communication, relationship building, and expression of feelings and thoughts.

The Power Of A Personal Greeting

We have seen more and more that children are not expected to greet others when they first meet or when visiting their homes. Whether from the difficulty of the new setting or simply not having the foundation to begin, many children with autism simply walk into a home and find a safe place to stay until the visit is over. 

Instead, we challenge all parents to teach their children to move past their shadowy presence and be seen and recognized from the first interaction. When your child greets another person, they are demonstrating awareness and maturity. Shaking hands and speaking up reinforce appropriate interaction skills and being comfortable actively participating with others. You can see that one simple practice is actually a collection of skills wrapped into a single 5-10 second event. 

How To Teach And Practice Greetings

The complexity of a greeting is not lost in your child. Learning the proper distance, appropriate eye contact, and even the amount of hand pressure in a handshake are all being calculated in real-time by your child.

As a result, if your child has trouble maintaining eye contact or making a handshake, be confident. It doesn’t suggest that they cannot or are not learning. Instead, it reinforces the importance of a calming coaching style and consistent practice. Here are a few suggestions on how to practice greetings with your child.

1. Social Skills Are Similar To Other Life Skills. 

Since you probably don’t remember basic social skills being taught to you explicitly, you may take them for granted. And if you’re someone who associates easily and intuitively with others, it’s likely difficult to see your child struggle.

To avoid frustration, consider social skills to be similar to other life skills in that they require practice and perseverance to master. After all, you wouldn’t think a child could tie their own shoelaces on their first try. So why would you expect a flawless pattern of greeting after only one lesson?

2. Progress, Not Perfection. 

Be patient and celebrate small accomplishments. If your child is prompted to say greet their teacher on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then gives an unprompted greeting on Fridays, That is progress! Maybe next week they will spontaneously greet their teacher twice per week.

3. A Single Skill at a Time

Additionally, focus on only one aspect of a skill at a time. For you, attempting to make eye contact, greet people, and shake their hands may seem like one uninterrupted endeavor. Since you’re so used to it, your mind doesn’t have to dissect it into its constituent parts.

However, a greeting like this is composed of several discrete skills:

  • a verbal greeting

  • a visual component of eye contact

  • a handshake that is tactile. 

As a result, if your child has trouble with greetings, begin by practicing only one aspect at a time. Next, when you’ve learned the individual parts, combine them.

4. Do your best to ensure adequate sleep and healthy food.

It’s difficult for adults who do not have autism to socially interact properly when their basic needs are ignored. Have you ever struggled through an early-morning meeting that was distracted by foggy thinking and hunger, or was overcome by it? If this is the case, you understand the difficulty of interacting without sleep or food.

If you want to promote social learning in your child with autism, one of the most effective ways is to promote restful sleep and a healthy diet. Too much sugar leads to wired, hyperactive behavior, and too little sleep leads to fatigue and lethargy. A consistent morning routine promotes a regular sleep schedule, which is important to academic success and social interaction. A correlation exists between sleep and positive social interactions. Sleep deprivation makes communication with others difficult.

5. Get Help and Support

Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting is a team of Master and Doctoral-level experts who specialize in treating children with autism and their families. With over 20 years of experience in the field of autism, we engage our families within a caring and compassionate environment that allows for the development of a therapeutic relationship. Working with your child alone can often seem daunting and discouraging. Reach out to our office and find out about our social skills classes, parent training, and home-based services to supplement your efforts with scientifically proven ABA methods.

Call us at 203-900-4720 to get started with an individualized treatment plan for your child and benefit from evidence-based teaching methods and a state-of-the-art facility.

We Believe That Early Diagnosis & Intervention Is Key.