Activity for Building Autism Social Skills

August 14, 2012, TBH Blog
TBH Blog

Looking for help with teaching social skills for children with autism? Need ideas for teaching other important life skills?

Trumpet Behavioral Health is starting a new feature on our blog. Parents, caregivers and teachers, follow our blog to get a weekly skills activity you can use to help teach important skills to your child with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Suggested activities for building skills for your child or student with autism will focus on the following skills areas:

  1. Social Skills
  2. Emotional Skills
  3. Communication Skills
  4. Receptive Language
  5. Expressive Language
  6. Academics
  7. Independence Skills
  8. Motor Skills

This Week’s Featured Activity:
Make a Fort/Castle/Home

This activity is designed to be fun and easy to modify for your child, depending on their current abilities. Parents can have siblings be the peer, where teachers can use other students.  Hopefully this activity will be reinforcing for the child.  However, if social situations are uncomfortable for your child or student, try setting a timer to control how long the activity takes place, for example 3-5 minutes.  If your child plays for the duration of the timer, he or she gets to choose a preferred item or activity. The activity can also be easily modified by using other materials such as Legos®, blocks, pillows or any other materials or toys you may have readily available.

Objective: Plays cooperatively with one partner
Developmental Areas: Social Method
Behavioral Category: Constructive Play
Curriculum Level: Intermediate
Setting: Peers (brother, sister, friend, student)
Materials: Blanket, Cushions or Boxes


Your child or student should already be familiar with the activity, having observed and/or played it with help from an adult. Remember that this activity needs to be fun and interesting for the child with autism — and it should fit into his or her preferences. So if he or she likes the color red, a super hero, or a particular doll, theme the Build a Fort activity around that area of interest.

Before using this activity with your child with autism, talk through and demonstrate with a sibling or a student how you would like them to interact with your child with autism. Give them ideas for what they can say to help prompt and engage your child.

For example, ask them to say things like: “We’re going to build a Fort! Come play with me and help me.” Or “We need to build a fort, or a castle, or a home for [insert item of interest for child].” “I will show you what we are doing [have them demonstrate], can you come help me do this? It will be fun.”

If an appropriate peer is not available, use another adult so you can shadow and prompt your child.

Activity Procedure

  1. Bring your child and his or her peer into an area set up with the materials. Be sure the area is cleared of distracting items.
  2. Gain their attention and tell them to play together (e.g., “Make a fort together!”).
  3. Provide social praise if the child follows along with the peer and helps build a fort.
  4. If the child does not collaborate, gain his/her attention by tapping him/her on the shoulder and reminding him/her to help.
  5. If the child still does not collaborate with the peer, gently physically prompt him/her to assist.
  6. Reinforce the child for collaboration at increased intervals of time as he/she becomes more successful.
  7. Fade back prompting until the child independently collaborates with the peer.
  8. Run this activity daily to allow the child multiple opportunities to collaborate with his or her peer. Remember it’s fun, but it’s also teaching a valuable skill!

If this is a skills area that you have been wanting to work on with your child, we hope you will benefit from this activity. Watch for more of these activities each week from Trumpet Behavioral Health. And if you have a request for activities for specific skills you’ve been wanting to work on with your child, please let us know via our suggestions form >> click here

The above recommended activity is not a replacement for behavioral therapy from a qualified Board Certified Behavior Analyst or trained therapist. It is only provided as a recommended activity for you to use in working with your child.

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