Autism Spectrum Disorder & Turn-Taking: How You Can Teach Your Child This Important Skill
Children and adults on the autism spectrum often find it difficult to wait for their turn. When they are talking to peers or reacting to a social situation, they may come across as interruptive and perhaps even rude.
Maneuvering social interactions often requires that children learn to not interrupt others and wait for their turn to talk. In this blog, we discuss how parents can enable their children to understand and implement the important social skill of taking turns.
In order to learn turn taking, it is necessary to first learn other equally important and related social skills:
Controlling impulses, such as the urge to interrupt while practicing patience
Understanding social perceptions by reading facial expressions and decoding body language
Being able to maintain a healthy back-and-forth flow of communication during a conversation
While teaching your child about turn-taking, it is important that you know your child’s developmental level in order to create an effective plan of action. Children and young adults on the spectrum might not be able to deal with a lot of verbal information, as their language skills are limited. Hence, we recommend that parents first create a simple environment that can help children in understanding the concept of turn-taking.
Below are a few strategies we’ve found helpful while working with children across different ages and developmental levels:
Conduct fun activities that involve turn taking
Choose activities that have a clear turn-taking structure and strong visual elements, such as rolling the dice. Games, such as Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, Jenga or card games, such as Uno, Spades, etc. would all be great activities to involve your child in so as to practice this skill.
Use visual supports as a signal to indicate when someone’s turn has arrived during the game. For instance, use cards with two different colors on either side, such as red and green. Explain to all players that the red side of their card needs to be facing up when it’s not their turn to play, whereas the green side should be facing up when it is their turn to play.
We recommend you assist your child while playing. If your child becomes impatient while waiting for their turn, talk to them calmly and ask them to figure out whose turn it is by using the visual cues you have provided. If they interrupt or play when it is not their turn, use simple words and phrases, such as “Hold on,” “Wait,” “Whose turn is it?”, “Please check your card color,” etc. Always have reinforcements handy to reward your child for their good behavior.
Keep a close eye on your child’s body language to determine their mood. Your child may become restless and fidgety during the game - it is important you teach them how to react during such situations. Ask them to use phrases, such as “How long do you think this would take?” or “I apologize for the interruption, can you tell me how long this would take?”
Engaging in healthy family conversations is important to understand what is going on with each family member and to also understand how they can support each other. Introduce rules to ensure that nobody uses gadgets during dinner, breakfast, or any meals that gather the family together. Choose a topic and start a conversation. You can use the green and red cards here as well. For example, display the green side of your card to indicate that you want to speak, while others with the red side up listen to the conversation.
Once children understand turn-taking and learn to wait for their turn to talk, we recommend parents create opportunities to strengthen this important social skill. For example, when a person shares with you that they had a bad week, empathize with them and ask more questions. This way your child who is listening to this dialogue can understand how to reply with compassion.
These are a few tips that can help your child acquire turn-taking skills. Is there a different strategy that you have used that has worked particularly well for your child? Do let us know in comments below.
For more information regarding sensory therapy, cognitive skills, behavior therapy, developmental disorders, and early intervention, please contact Stepping Stones Center. We emphasize on acquiring new and appropriate behaviors, while also working on helping the child achieve developmentally age-appropriate milestones through evidence-based practices.