Turn-taking in children with ASD: Visual-based social skills strategies


Turn taking and theory of mind deficits

The diverse social skills associated with taking turns can be very difficult for children with ASD to master.  This has to do with theory of mind deficits.  A child with ASD may be unable to predict how another person might feel to be interrupted in a video game or given the last turn in a video game.  A child on the autism spectrum might not be able to anticipate the positive social consequences for allowing a peer to go ahead of them at the drinking fountain or talk first in a discussion.

Making it visual

It often helps to make it visual when teaching social skills to kids with Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders.  Here are some visual tools you can either download free from my various blog posts or else buy for very little money.


Thought bubble explanations

Many young children fuss about being first, but quite a few children on the autism spectrum persist in “me first” behavior, in a child-like fashion,  into well into their teens.  Use this panel, which part of a series of seven of my free panels you can download for free from the website, to show how others might react to someone who always tries to be first.  Using your own simple pictures, create other simple thought bubble explanations to demonstrate how others feel in turn-taking situations in play and work.


Using a balance

An inexpensive classroom balance, available for about 15 dollars online, is a very useful gadget for demonstrating reciprocity in relationships and conversation.  I have made two short youtube videos to show how to do this:






Using a Talking Stick

This is a method of enforcing turn-taking in conversation which is part of Native American lore and tradition.  Making simple Talking Sticks and using them can provide a fun and useful series of social skills lessons for young people on the autism spectrum.






Pie charts

For children on the autism spectrum who dominate discussions, pie chart visuals can be extremely helpful.  Here is a link that guides you to pie chart visuals like the one shown above as well as blank templates for you to customize.




Conversation turn-taking visuals:  chains and girders

I provide you with very simple downloads to create hands-on, visual conversation activities.  Just download, print and cut out.  I give you explanations and and a Youtube video to learn how to use the chain and girder images.
I wish you well with your social skills teaching.  I hope  that introducing some of these visual elements might help  in your work.
Joel Shaul, LCSW
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