Helping Children with ASD learn to greet others

Another Lesson Learned from Abroad

Children with ASD often have difficulty in interacting with others.  They can find playing with other children quite challenging for a variety of reasons and participation in exchanges that go back and forth across multiple turns can be difficult.

Greetings are often the first step in those back and forth exchanges.  All children but particularly those with ASD may really benefit from our support to learn this skill; a skill that so many of us take for granted.

Teaching children how, when and why to greet different communication partners can be the first step to help them develop more meaningful relationships with others.

Many of us with offer a friendly ‘hello’ as the first step in many of our interactions with others.  It may be a nod of the head, a raised hand, or a smile as you pass someone on the street or in the hallway at work.  It may be a more formal ‘Good afternoon…how are you’ as you greet a client in your waiting room or a ‘Hello….XXX speaking’ as you answer a phonecall.  Your greeting may be an informal ‘Hey…how are you?’ going to a friend or colleague.   Each generation seems to have different social rules and expectations around how to greet.

Yes, the ‘simple’ act of greeting is not so simple at all!

  1. How does your child with ASD communicate?

Let’s start from a strengths base.

Is your child able to use spoken words?

Can your child use eye contact to communicate his or her interests?

Can your child use gestures or key word signs?

Does your child use an AAC device to communicate with others?

  1. Is your child greeting others?  

If so, who does your child greet?

When does your child greet people?

If not, who is your child most familiar with?  Who does your child show a strong emotional connection to?  What people in your child’s environment does he or she appear to be comfortable around?

3.  What will I encourage my child to do and/or say to greet others?

We have identified how your child communicates?

If you are now wanting to encourage your child to start greeting others with greater success and frequency, start by modelling for them how you want them to do so.  Make sure you choose a method and style of communication that is within your child’s toolbox.  For example, if your child uses an AAC device, you can model how to use this device to say hello to people.  Your child will watch and learn.  If your child can use gestures, you can model how to wave and smile at people you greet.  If your child can use spoken words, you can model how to wave and say ‘hello’.  If your child prefers to give a High 5, then this is what you can model!

Choose moments and people when your child is well regulated emotionally.  We want your child to feel good at these moments so that they associate greetings with moments of positivity and human connection.

Don’t pressure your child to […]


The Power of Playful Imitation

Imitation is how young children learn many skills; including how to communicate

What a child is not talking, there is a fair chance that he or she is not yet imitating

Imitation is an important skill to teach a late talking toddler.

Imitation is a foundational skill that serves as a precursor to language development in toddlers. We can help our children to develop speech, language and communication skills via engaging in playful imitation.  In this week’s blogpost we will delve into the significance of imitation as a vital precursor skill for language development in toddlers. By understanding the link between imitation and language, you can facilitate the development of your child’s language skills in a fun, playful way.

The Skill of Imitation Develops in Stages

First young children will start to imitate your actions upon objects. For example, your child might imitate you patting a dog, drinking from a cup, washing hands, popping bubbles, building a tower with blocks or pushing buttons on a musical toy.

Next young children will start to imitate actions and gestures that they see demonstrated. This is when children start enjoying simple songs that involve actions.

Soon after, children may start to imitate your simple vocalisations and sounds that they hear in the environment such as trucks, sirens and animal sounds.

Finally, children start to imitate words and short phrases.

Tips to help your child learn to imitate gestures by 12 months

If your child is imitating actions with objects and playing appropriately with a variety of toys, it is time to make yourself the toy and encourage your child to imitate your gestures.

Start with some simple body actions and gestures in games like ‘Give me Five’ ‘Peekaboo’ ‘Round and Round the Garden’, clapping, waving hi/bye and banging on a table with your hands.

Some simple gross motor actions like jumping, marching and dancing to music are other fun ideas to help your child imitate actions during play.

Once your child can imitate these types of simple actions, you can teach some simple natural gestures or key word signs to help your child communicate.

Some Helpful Natural Gestures and Key Word Signs to teach young children

Only teach signs when your child is imitating earlier gestures.  Model  / Demonstrate these signs 3-5 times in natural situations and play and then look expectantly at your child…giving him or her time to attempt to imitate.  Here are some good signs to start with:





all done




Imitation can help your child to learn:

How to engage in back and forth reciprocal conversation

How to use verbal and nonverbal communication for a range of social purposes with others


How to combine words using grammar and syntax to build combinations of words in phrases and short sentences

Speech Sounds

Imitation is a fundamental precursor skill for language development in toddlers.

By incorporating opportunities for playful imitation into your interactions and activities, parents and carers can create a rich learning environment that supports their child’s speech, language and communication skills to grow.

Through imitation, toddlers acquire vocabulary, grasp sentence structure, develop conversational skills, […]



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