Come Play: How to Teach Conversational Skills

Working with kids with Autism is very rewarding, especially when I am able to help a child learn skills that promote friendship. One of the main challenges for kids with Autism is learning social language skills, specifically, conversational language. There is an enormous amount of research that documents that these skills are best acquired in a real world context with typical peers. Most schools and programs strive to provide these real world interactions or kids with special needs through the provision of programs that include both kids with needs and those with typical communication development. Children with typical language acquisition who are interacting with kids who have special needs are often referred to as “peer pals”. The presence of the children with typical language as a peer model provides many obvious benefits for children with special needs like Autism. However, the research documents several benefits for the “peer pals” too, including:

  • Increased understanding and empathy for and positive attitude towards others
  • Increased opportunities for leadership leading to higher self-esteem and confidence

Check out the article “Come Play With Me” by Howard Goldstein, PhD, CCC-SLP; Kathy Thiemann-Bourque, PhD, CCC-SLP  or

by Sarika S. Gupta, Ph.D., William R. Henninger, IV, Ph.D., & Megan E. Vinh, Ph.D. for more information about typical peers and children with Autism.
Over the years, I’ve developed a program I use with “peer pals” and their pals with communication disorders (see below). By using the acronym PAL, and providing your child opportunities to practice each of the skills listed, with ANY pal, you will help your child increase social language skills! Even better, contact your local preschool and ask if there are any opportunities for your child with typical communication development to become a “peer pal”!!

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