Top 5 Q and A series: Teaching Play and Social skills

We’ve gathered the top 5 questions from our online community about teaching play and social skills. Community manager, Kelsey General, joins me to discuss these answers. Be sure to check out last week’s episode, a classic rebroadcast, Teaching Play Skills to Children with Autism.

When should babies and toddlers start playing? Baby Social and Play Milestones:

Early play skills will fall under social skills beginning very young for typically developing babies. These include: eye contact, smiling at caregivers, babbling, blowing raspberries, and early forms of imitation. By 9 to 12 months and 15 to 18 months, children should show increased joint attention, pointing at items frequently not only for requesting but to share interest and enjoyment. Additionally, young toddlers will take part in cause and effect play such as Jack in the box, stacking and knocking over blocks, putting items in, etc. These are all prerequisite social and play skills that should be understood before expecting more advanced play.

Will daycare naturally build and teach social skills for delayed children?

While exposure and “socialization” to other kids may seem like the answer to teaching play, the short answer is no; daycare will not naturally teach play skills if the prerequisites aren’t there. I discuss my experience with sending Lucas to preschool at age 2, his struggles and the support we needed to move forward. Young children with autism often need one to one support alongside any traditional daycare option. One to One aids should be supporting a child’s independent play, managing problem behaviors, and encouraging peer to peer or parallel play with familiar, comfortable activities.

How to encourage peer to peer or sibling interaction?

The first priority when discussing interaction between peers or siblings is safety. Be sure there are enough of the right people around to keep everyone safe. Next, start small with pairing up these individuals. For siblings, for example, a new baby being born into the family. Start prepping early with baby dolls and teaching the child about their new baby sister or brother. Have the baby bring the child a gift, some small interaction between the two that motivates and reinforces the relationship. Support and pairing will go a long way. This also goes for peer to peer interaction, often for children with autism playing with peers comes with a lot of rules, be sure you’re not only teaching the child how to play with their peers but the peers the appropriate way to play with the child.

How can you help your child play with toys?

If your child isn’t interested in toys, take a look at their options and the toys you are offering to them. Are they age appropriate or developmentally appropriate? Does your child have the necessary prerequisite skills to play with this toy? Many times, children with autism who have delays in play skills should begin with toys suitable for a much earlier play level. This means 2, 3, and 4-year-olds with autism will likely not be interested in or understand pretend play or dress up. Instead, try focused toys that have a purpose or outcome that can be seen by the child. Additionally, children may not have the language skills required to play with more advanced play toys. Utilize table time, with our early learner skills focused on activities like the shoebox, or potato head. Support, practice, and reinforce toys that are appropriate before moving onto other toys.

Should your child be sharing? How to help:

Sharing is not developmentally appropriate for any 2-year-old, with or without autism. At this age children should be playing parallel and there should be enough toys for everyone. If your child is at the age for joint play and sharing and they are not, increase support. Find opportunities for the child to have time with their toys that they do not have to share. Encourage toy “trading”, finding interest in another toy while offering the current toy to a peer. Designate sharing toys and sharing time, for peers to use a toy or game together. All of these suggestions should be practiced with one on one support, and high reinforcement. If grabbing, hitting, or other problem behavior begins, then the demands are too high, and the reinforcement is too low, more support is needed.

If you find this Q and A series helpful, consider joining our online community to be a part of the discussion. We are reaching millions and trying to reach more. Please find us on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Follow, like, share, and comment to get the word out.

Kelsey General on the Turn Autism Around Podcast

Kelsey is a single mom to two boys, living in BC, Canada. In 2016 her oldest son was diagnosed with autism at 25 months old. After learning he would not qualify for the support he needed, Kelsey began her journey of learning how to help him. Since then, Kelsey has continued her education in the field in order to provide her children and others in the community the direct intervention they needed. Now, Kelsey homeschools both her kids with support from a team of consulting professionals, while also working with other families providing behavior analytic services and parent coaching services. Kelsey and her boys enjoy spending their free time exploring and in nature hiking, biking, camping, and snowboarding. You can follow her adventures and learn more about getting children with autism outside safely on her Instagram page,


  • What are baby and toddler play skill milestones?
  • What age should children start sharing?
  • How to encourage peer to peer play?
  • How to encourage sibling interaction?
  • Are you offering the right toys to your child?
  • Will daycare solve play delays for children with autism?
  • What types of play are appropriate for children with autism?
  • What does early play look like?
  • Why are language and play so important to eachother?
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?


Kelsey General – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 188
Top 5 Q and A series: Teaching Play and Social Skills
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Kelsey General

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around Podcast Episode Number 188. Today we are discussing the top five questions about play and social skills. I'm here with Kelsey General, who's our community manager, and this is part of our Top five question series. And I think it's great because last week, podcast 187 was a classic rebroadcast of our Play and Social Skills podcast that we did a couple of years ago. So I think this Q&A Top five questions on playing social skills is great. We talk about whether just sending children to daycare is effective in increasing social skills. What are the beginning social skills that we should be looking for or teaching how to get kids to share better? All kinds of gems in this one. Hope you love it as much as I do.

Narrator: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed, and lead happier lives. And now your host, autism mom, behavior analyst and bestselling author Dr. Mary Barbera.

Mary: All right. Thank you so much, Kelsey, for joining us for another top five question segment of our podcast.

Kelsey: Yes, thanks for having me. Excited to talk about this one.

Mary: So as we said last week, last week, our podcast was a classic rebroadcast all about planning and social skills. You know, play and social skills are pretty confusing to people and can be hard to teach, especially for kids on the spectrum. And Kelsey is our community manager. She has been for a number of years already. And we get a lot of questions within our community also on our free Facebook page, our free TikTok, Instagram, we get questions a lot about social and play skills. So Kelsey has come up with the top five questions that we get and we're just going to have a discussion about it. So why don't we start with question number one?

When should babies and toddlers start playing? Baby Social and Play Milestones:

Kelsey: Yeah, question number one. We do get lots of questions in general just about playing social skills. I think that one of the first things a lot of families notice is being delayed . Oh, my child really doesn't care about the kids at the play date like the other kids do. So our first question is when should babies and toddlers even start playing right?

Mary: And what are the basic social skills and things you should be looking for? And since autism is a social language communication disorder, we are going to see differences in social skills pretty early on. So a couple references. My book, Turn Autism Around. Chapter seven is all about developing social and play skills. Also, chapter two is all about signs of autism. And among the first couple of social skills is really eye contact. And that starts very early on is eye contact babbling, babbling back to parents, even blowing raspberries and kind of that early imitation. Most kids learn all their skills, including vocal skills, as well as other motor skills through imitation, so that we call it joint attention when they're really engaged with someone want to share in an experience which then around 9 to 12 months of age, definitely by 15 to 18 months of age, a child should be pointing with their index finger on a regular basis, not just once every month or two. They should be pointing not only to show parents things, but also not only to show them what they want, but also to point to things, to share interest. Again, join attention. You know, some of the early autism screenings involve making a balloon fly into the air and watching the child's reaction. Do they just look at the parent like, oh, my gosh, this is funny or fun or, you know, surprising, or do they run in and just get the balloon and just bring it back and, you know, want to do it themselves? Also, one of the tests and I don't. I don't know that this is a standardized test, but spilling water on a baby's highchair. Yes, spilling water. And if it's a typically developing baby and I'm not sure what age, but, you know, they would be like, oh, even if they can't talk, they would look around like, whoa, we have a problem kind of thing. And where an autistic baby would just splash in it and look for that cause and effect. Now again, typically, but typical babies of a certain age might splash too. But there's all of these milestones that kids are meeting, depending if they're four months of splashing in the water versus, you know, nine months, splashing in the water. In 12 months when they're splashing in the water, you know, that really could be delayed social and play. So we are looking for eye contact, pointing joint attention, wanting to share in interest, bringing stuffed animals to the parents. Those are all early social skills. Now, I know you asked about play skills and really we're looking for kind of those social skills and joint attention first. But initially, that play would be very much like cause and effect play of, you know, Jack in the box, liking things like that. Even building a tower of blocks, putting things in. That's why some of our early learning programs like the Shoeboxes are so successful because kids initially like to put things in. So those are some of the early social and play skills. And then after that, it kind of goes from, you know, solitary play with a variety of objects to sharing and playing. One of the reasons I don't talk a lot about social skills and talk more about language skills is they go hand in hand. And once we improve the language and the imitation skills, a lot of times that also boosts joint attention and play skills and I'll stop talking. Kelsey, is there anything you want to add to that answer?

Kelsey: I think that's pretty good. I would agree with you that joint attention is one of the early things and it's not something you want to skip. Even if you have a three and four year old. Now you're just starting to tune into Mary's podcasts now and information. It's not something you want to go and ignore because it is really important. Like if a child looks at an object and then never looks at you like we're not in the place of learning. Like if they're not curious about their environment and knowing that an adult can help them learn, we're not ready to learn. And that's why a lot of the early learner programs in your courses, like a shoe box and the Potato Head, like when you're bringing things like it's showing the child, Oh, when mom and dad have something or they're telling me something and it helps build that. And it's a really important step that that you don't want to miss as far as play. You know, we get a lot of questions about how do I get my two year old to share? And it is important to look at those milestones and realize that that's not a two year old developmental skill. At that point, they're just parallel playing. You really should have enough for everyone to play with their own things and not do a lot of sharing yet. They don't have the language for it. Even typical two year olds, they don't have the understanding. And so really watching those milestones is important.

Mary: Speaking of milestones too. I recently did a podcast called Not That Reason a couple months ago with Dr. Sheryl Tierney Avis, and it was all about the CDC milestones and how they've changed. And, you know, wherever you are in the world, you can also always Google what should my nine month old be doing or CDC milestones for a nine month old? And while they're not perfect, as we discussed in the episode a few months ago, they are 75% of that age child should be doing it. So we also have blogs on pointing, on eye contact, which we don't directly teach. We have a podcast on teaching greetings, which is another early social skill. We can link all of those in the show notes here. So when I say the show notes that is going to

Kelsey: Yeah yeah so I think that covers kind of our first question and make sure to watch those milestones because even though the social moms group might think your two year olds should share, that doesn't mean they develop which. So our next question is my child's doctor and even my husband say that if I put my child in daycare, they'll begin to play with other kids and build the social skills that they're delayed in. Is that true?

Will daycare naturally build and teach social skills for delayed children?

Mary: I actually thought that that was true when we enrolled Lucas into a typically developing toddler preschool program when he was two, and he was a new two on his birthday's July 3rd, so he was a young two. But my husband was convinced that we needed to start. We didn't know he had autism, although my husband first mentioned it at 21 months of age, which I'm sure if you've listened to some podcasts, you know that I was in a deep state of denial. And so he went to preschool and he actually and this is in Chapter seven of my book, he actually did pretty well. A lot of the kids had bad separation anxiety. He was just a very laid back child. And so I could drop him off. He didn't fight over toys because he really wasn't interested in toys. He would sit in circle time without a problem. He didn't cry. He liked to paint. And so it wasn't until mid-year when it was time to enroll Lucas in three year old preschool. The following year that the teacher and the director brought us in, brought me, requested a meeting with me and my husband and told us that they thought he was not ready to go up to the three year old class. I didn't know any of this. I didn't know that when you go from a two year old to three year old class, the ratio gets worse. So there's less teachers with more kids that going from two year old to three year old preschool, you need to be potty trained. Well, I mean, he wasn't even talking, really. I mean, he had pop out words. I didn't know what pop out words were. He was in speech therapy. But they also told me, which I didn't know, that summer birthday boys are usually held back for kindergarten and those sorts of things that they tend to be more immature because they were kids almost a year older in the same class. So, you know, you can make a lot of excuses for why he was delayed. They didn't mention the word autism at that meeting when he was two and a half. But when we left, my husband's like, they think he has autism, just like I do. And so we started to get more serious about looking into the diagnosis. So it is not true. I've worked with hundreds of kids directly and many of them, and now a lot of our online participants, they're just like, put, put your child in daycare and they'll, you know, sink or swim. They'll figure it out, they'll be social. But what I see happening, especially with kids like for Lucas, we got extremely lucky that he had no problem behaviors that he just like I can't think of a hundred clients that I've had in the past that could have done that well in preschool by themselves. Without a diagnosis, without any. A port like it just, you know, he had a great teacher and a great assistant teacher and they were very motherly with them. And he was fine. He was safe. But most kids do get into lots of trouble when they're put into a placement. That's not great and it's not their fault. So if you have a child who is not passing, or can't go to the three year old preschool because they're having problem behaviors. They're not potty trained, those sorts of things. It's not their fault. If you have a child who gets kicked out of preschool, which happens or daycare, it's not their fault and it's not your fault either if you're the parent and it's not your fault as a professional. Just sometimes kids are in an environment that's not appropriate for them at the moment. So if you are, some people need to put their kids in daycare. They've been in daycare their whole lives. The parents both work. You know, there's all these situations. So there's no judgment here on my part or Kelsey's part. But if a child's having problem behavior or he's, you know, hitting or biting or kicking, if he's rolling around on the floor, like I even went to see a child that I was consulting with. And this child was in daycare just one day a week for socialization. And I looked over and he was licking the wall. I was just there to observe. Of course, when I saw that, I got up, removed the child from the wall, you know, like you don't want kids licking walls. But I was there to observe, to see if this is useful. Well, it wasn't useful. She was wandering around. She was not making any gains. There is no point in having a child somewhere where they're not having some success. They're not learning it. And yet, even if you have a child like Lucas, him sitting there, he needs 1 to 1 engagement. He needed you know, he got into an ABA program shortly. You know, when he was diagnosed, it's like he needs to catch up, not just sit there and go backwards because those kids are two or three and they are pretend playing. They are waiting in line, they are sharing, they are imitating, communicating, telling the teacher if there's a problem, telling the teacher if they have to go to the bathroom and it's not fair, no matter how old the child is, if the child is three but functioning as one year old, you can't put him in a three year old class and expect everything to go well. Same thing for any age. If there's a huge discrepancy, it's not fair to the child. And there needs to be some other plan.

Kelsey: Yeah, I would say that one of the most common misconceptions I hear is, Oh, I'll just put them in daycare and it'll be fine. And I think if some kids have the prerequisite skills, it could help, you know, if they have some imitation skills, they don't really have behavior problems. There's enough support. I think there are situations where it could help, but I think everyone should go into these things as if you are just doing it for socialization. Let's try this for a couple of weeks. Because sometimes, I mean, we see it all the time in our courses. No problem behaviors at home or problem behaviors at home managed. And they're hitting, kicking and biting at daycare. Well, and they're not. And while we should go through a lot more problem solving if they need to be there for work in situations like that, for just socialization, they're just learning problems honestly, because they don't have enough support and they don't have enough skills to navigate that situation. I will say because I'm a single mom and need to work, Brentley has been in and out of daycare since he was two and a half with a1 to 1, always has a 1 to 1. And even still, we didn't add a social goal for him until he started showing motivation and wanting those social goals. The only goal was he needed to be there and be safe and to be engaged with an adult like he was never there for socialization. And now at eight he has some social goals and he's doing great with them. But there was no point putting anyone through that when he didn't have the skills.

Mary: Right. And Lucas did go to the three year old class in that same typical preschool, and he went with an ABA therapist. So they spent. That's another issue. I see what daycare and preschool is all day on Friday. Just for socialization, like. That's way too long. Especially when this child doesn't even have a 1 to 1 or has a 1 to 1 for part of the whole day. So Lucas had a 1 to 1 then, you know, the whole time after that. But it also was only 2 hours, twice a week. Yeah. So we could use our home program to prime the skills to work with the teacher for home school communication. He still wasn't having any problem behaviors and those sorts of things. So we didn't want to stop it and that worked out well. Again, it's not going to work out well for everybody because if you have to work. But this also is true. If your child is at an ABA clinic or school, developmental disabilities school, we have to make sure that wherever they're at, they get a lot of 1 to 1 attention. They get a lot of actual skills training, actual responses, hundreds and hundreds of responses per hour, not just sitting. I hate to even use this word, but I feel like in some situations, like they're just warehousing kids, like it looks worse than babysitting. And so if your child is going somewhere and you don't know what's happening there, if they're not happy and they're not making making progress and they don't have hundreds of learning opportunities per hour or at least per day, and you don't get any communication to show you what they're working on, like a little smiley guy at the end of the day or frowny guy or you had a tough day. I mean, this is more of a systemic problem, probably out of the scope of this little podcast, but is not just about typically developing schools or clinics or anything. We want to make sure that the child is happy, safe and learning and all that is happening. If a child's crying, crying to go has problem behaviors there, it needs to be addressed.

Kelsey: Yeah. So long story short long answer short. No, a child won't just learn social skills through osmosis of being around other children. It just doesn't happen.

Mary: Right? Right. And we can plan out social engagement and we can learn and we can teach. And some kids, like you said, do pretty well in daycare or preschool, with or without support, depending on what level they're at. And it should always be a goal that you can socialize with other kids and. Yep. And so you just have to kind of take baby steps there.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. So our next question kind of runs into this. My child isn't interested in other children or their siblings. What can I do to help them want to be with their peers?

How to encourage peer to peer or sibling interaction?

Mary: Yeah, and we get this question a lot, too. When mom has another baby that enters the family and how to, you know, keep the kids safe and how to, you know, if there's an age difference, if there's problem behaviors at hand. So one of the things is just making sure that whatever environment they're in, they have enough support there to keep everybody safe, to keep the child safe, to keep the other kids safe, too, and to engage with the kids. So when the therapist used to go with Lucas when he was three, I sent in a box, a plastic box with a cover with puzzles and games that Lucas liked and could do at home. But we kept that box at preschool, and so when the therapist was there, she would get out the box, not to just engage with Lucas one on one, but to be like the kid magnet, to be like, you know, okay, we can have two kids play with Lucas for this for this game or this puzzle. Oh, okay. Susie and Johnny, you want to sit down and take turns with us and play. And so it was her job not to just keep Lucas safe and engage, but actually to bring in the other kids when it was appropriate. And, you know, it was amazing. Like these little three year olds were junior therapists, you know, and. He went on to go to public school with some of them. And so pairing up toys that the child with autism is good at, with the kids having support with a newborn coming into the house, you know, prepare if you can in advance with doll babies. And when you bring the child home, make sure that you don't leave the child in the room with the child, especially they have any kind of problem behaviors, even if they just started to cause and effect. I remember I interviewed Chino's mom and we can link hers in the show notes, but when I started with Tino, he was like 21 months old and he had a newborn sister and he had a three year old sister. Her mom was like losing her mind and he would like overturn the bassinet just to kind of get a reaction out of the baby and the mom and, you know, throw over a table which could have definitely hit the baby. And so keeping them safe. And then pairing, you know, being in the room, being in the middle of the older child and the baby and having, you know, the baby, maybe give the child something that that they like, that the baby can hand over. And it's just a slow process of caring with reinforcement and keeping everybody safe.

Kelsey: Yeah, I would agree with you. I think again, when we think about it from the child with autism point of view, you know, I'm at a playdate with six other kids now I have to share my toys. Mom is telling me I have to put this here. There's too often a lot of rules when there's other kids around which can make kids not want to be around other kids. And so a lot of, you know, like you said, Mary, pairing, pairing the kids with good things. Even when the other kids are around, there's no expectation that they have to do anything besides be on their own and just the other kids around. And then you might start with the other kids giving the child a piece of their puzzle or a piece that they can line up, or you just have to meet kids where they are. But we have to remember the same things that apply to anything. If demands are too high. I have to share. I have to talk. I have to wait in line. I can't have mom's attention because the baby's got her attention. And now I have no reinforcement because I don't even have the toys I want how I want them. Like, why would I want to be there? I wouldn't. And I think that's what often gets paired up with our kids, too, I think especially children with delays, not to them just because they have a lot of different motivations. And we have to work within that to pair the peers with them. And also, you know, it's all I've. I saw this meme once on Facebook and it hit me. We're always teaching kids with autism how to socialize and play with other kids. But we also have to teach the siblings and the other kids how to play in a way that Johnny or Susie might like as well. If we want Johnny or Susie to want to be there.

Mary: I'm not sure where this is, I'm sure I talked about it somewhere, but there is a great book that's free now. I bought it decades ago. It's called Playtime Social Time and in the middle of the book it is like you gather a box of pretend kitchen items and pretend food and then it has some kind of scripts that you can modify to teach how to play with kitchen stuff. So anyway, in this book, in the middle of it, it has that. And at the end of the book is more like a script language for learning, for teaching, typically developing kids, how to play with the kids who need help. And so we can link that in the show notes because I found it for free years ago and it's a great resource if you dove in and really look at the middle part and the end part, especially if you're a professional like guidance counselors, a teachers ECB, or a speech therapist who work with groups. It would be amazing.

Kelsey: Yeah, that's really good. Our next question is, my child doesn't play with toys. What can I do to help them play with toys?

How can you help your child play with toys?

Mary: Yeah. So we see a lot of delayed play. Like a child may want to just line things up or a child may want to just stack blocks over and over again. And for my client, my former client, Jack, used to like to put straws in bottles repetitively. And you think, well, that's not really hurting anything. But if a child can play repetitively with the same toys over and over again for hours or even, you know, 30 minutes, 50 minutes, whatever it is a problem, because the child needs to be learning during that time. And if you need to get a shower and that keeps the child safe to play with blocks or puts draws in repetitively, that's fine as long as they're safe. But for, you know, hours or minutes on end, it really is a problem. So the other thing kids can get really hooked on is electronics, you know, watching the same movies over and over again, playing with the same apps, becoming very addicted to screen time. I know Lucas didn't really have a lot of self-stimming behavior, but he watched a ton of TV and he liked and he still likes VHS tapes because you could see the same movie, you know, over and over again. So he knows, okay, he's a big Barney. You know, Baby BOP comes out at this point. And, you know, he likes the routine, the watching, the same thing over and over again. And a lot of kids do. So, you know, getting kids interested in toys is, again, a pairing process. And sometimes you have to start with toys that are more delayed. So for a three year old, for instance, who's not interested in any toys, what you're you're probably trying to pair up toys that are for a three or four year old or a 3 to 5 year old level. When with our course, things like that, we tend to go back to hammer and ball and very delayed kind of play very infant, infant and toddler toys because they kind of have to pass through that cause and effect before you can get into higher level play, before you could get to, you know, pretend, play, dress up, play, making up schemes of, you know, the construction workers and what they're going to say or what they're going to think. They can't do that unless they have the language and social skills earlier to support that. So sometimes you have to kind of go backwards. Also teaching object imitation, which I did a blog on, we can link in the show notes to. Those early imitation skills, teaching language skills. This is all going to help with play.

Kelsey: Yeah. And we talk about that when we answer this question in our courses. It's like one of the first things I ask once I want to ask about was how far in the courses are you? How is table time going? And you talk about Chino and I think in our VB Bundle actually how you didn't teach them any play skills directly, you just taught them language skills. And then he was pretend playing with the baby in the bed. And I think that just goes to show that as we build these foundational skills that so many kids are lacking, the play comes and like Mary said, you know, open ended toys like building Legos or creative type things is often harder for kids with autism than close ended things like puzzles, cause and effect. Things can only work one way. Those are going to be much easier for you. Some kids do like electronic toys with lights, but I would keep those minimal, like have one out it at a time, you know. And if you do have blocks being really, you can't just give a child a pile of blocks and expect them to know what to do with them, show them a routine stack and crash, you know, and then show them a different routine line up and sweep or, you know, also video modeling, which I believe. Mary, you have.

Mary: Yeah, video while we have a podcast, a blog and it's also in the book a whole page on video modeling.

Kelsey: Yeah. And you can make your own, especially for the kids who like electronics. I remember one day we had some Lego around and I typed in like Lego on YouTube for Brantly and he got hooked on some Lego City video anyway. And the next day he was he built what he saw on the video and he did the whole script of it. And he's a kid who likes to script, so that's his strength. But then we can use that script to substitute in different steps to that same play scheme, and you can build off of it. So video modeling can be really powerful, but obviously in the early days you want to stick with those cause and effect and be really purposeful with teaching play because it's not necessarily something that all kids just know how to do.

Mary: Well, yeah, it's a skill and it is developmentally sequenced. So you can't just if you have a four year old that's not interested in toys, you can't just look for four year old toys or expect pretend play because it's just not going to happen. But if you go back and kind of support the child and teach, play and teach language and imitation skills and, you know, they'll get farther. The other thing that when you were talking, I was thinking is also don't expect age appropriate play for everything. You know, like if a three or four year old likes to, you know, doesn't like to do much and just likes to bounce on a ball rock and flap their hands, you know, you're going to have to go way back and get those baby types of cars in a bag. We talk about all this in the course. If you want to look into joining us in our online courses, you can attend a free workshop where you can link that in the show notes every single time. So, you know, attend a workshop, join us like you might think, oh, you know, I saw somebody that listens to our podcast a lot on our free Facebook page and she said, Oh, I listened to that one episode like three times, you know, to try to glean like. It's super important that if you're listening at this point, I mean, we're, what, half an hour in, you know, if you're listening and you're learning, really? Join our online course community. I think it's the best way where we can support you. It'll be so much more efficient than listening to this because we do produce a ton of free content in our online course. We curate the content, we bring it down to the step by step you need to teach you exactly what to do for your child or clients, no matter what their age or ability level is. As long as they're functioning at a 1 to 5 year level, not conversational, we can definitely help you help them?

Kelsey: Well, we answer all these questions every day in the private Facebook group. You know, you can ask. I won't say you can ask as many questions as you want, but you can ask, most of as many questions as you want. And we're answering these questions with the same responses we're giving you or similar every day. So it's really the best place for support, for sure. We have one more question about play and social skills. And it's my child is grabbing from other kids and struggling in daycare. What can I do to help them share? Let's just assume this is like a three or four year old probably. So under that, they just need a lot of support.

Should your child be sharing? How to help:

Mary: Yeah. So no matter what age or ability level, if your child is showing problem behaviors, the demands are too high, reinforcements too low. So you need to change both. You need to make the demands easier and not expect these higher level social skills unless all the rest of them are in place. Like if you can bring your child to a table and they'll sit there for 15 minutes and do puzzles and cause and effect toys and shoe box and potato head and they can engage with you, with or without language. That's a really good way. I mean, you're swapping items. You're not letting them sit and obsess over things. You know, they're having joint attention. They're learning. They're hopefully happy. We're you know, we always want our kids to be happy when they're learning at the table. Those skills will transfer pretty easily to other kids, other adults. And so, you know, if the child is at daycare, I mean, we talked about daycare and preschool, a lot. If they're grabbing, they probably don't have enough support there. If they do have a 1 to 1 whether, no matter what the age of the child especially, they have major safety problems or need, you know, having hitting and and those sorts of things. We did a podcast a couple of weeks ago, maybe a month or so ago with Rachel. We can link that on the show notes where her her three year old typically developing child who had a speech delay, in the past was throwing and hitting at my house and we kind of reversed engineered it, that might be super helpful too but that 1 to 1 aid if you have one needs to be right there with the child not sitting back waiting for their to be a fire to put out. They need to be right there. Even in an IEP like in our advocacy bonus video, which is in our online course, we talk about maybe in the IEP that that one to one... It needs to be specified that the 1 to 1 on the recess yard might be within arm's distance if the child is at risk of hurting another child or leaving the playground yard. Kids need more support, more modeling, more positives, more reinforcement for good waiting, good turn taking, good playing. These are all skills that are involved. When you talk about preschool, when you talk about anything, when you just talk about the day. These are all at play. So know that it's not your child's fault. It's not your fault. The child is telling you that they need more support and they need more reinforcement for doing the right thing. I heard a good thing the other day: if your child or clients are crying or having problem behavior, if they can't talk or can't talk, well, but imagine, what would my child be telling me if I could find out exactly what was wrong? I mean, we know if a child's flopping on the ground because they don't want to come in for recess, if they could talk and they could calmly say, that's not fair. You didn't tell me it was. Well, you know, I want five more minutes, whatever the situation is. Know that the problem we have is communication. And we just need to help our kids communicate better and better so that they can improve their social skills and they can improve their quality of life, whatever that is.

Kelsey: Yeah, this just goes back to me. Throwing kids in daycare is not going to create social skills. It's going to create social problems. It's good if they have a 1 to 1, someone needs to be there. And this is, again, the importance of table time gaining echoic control, which is when the child repeats you so that if you see a child looking at the truck, prompt them to say truck. And when they say truck, help get it. And if you're still teaching the skill, one other strategy might be to have a bin of toys, a daycare that they're only his, that he doesn't have to share. And so you can have short times of practicing sharing in short times where every kid knows it's not Johnny's sharing time right now.

Mary: Or two boxes, Johnny's box and one for Johnny plus two kids box.

Kelsey: Yeah. And this is our sharing box. Yeah, yeah.

Mary: Yeah, we just made up a new technique.

Kelsey: We just made up a new technique. But seriously, because it's like we're also when we were doing gift programs with Brantley, we did a lot of training and we do a lot of this in our online program when kids are really stuck with holding. Think it might be like. Oh, here. Maybe Johnny's looking at the truck and you see Johnny looking at the truck. You might go up to that. Others can be like, Oh, did you see this cool ball? Maybe that kid put the truck down and now you can give Johnny the truck. So it's like, again, the bottom line is more support and more prompting of the skills you want to see and then reinforcing them. And that takes a lot of practice.

Mary: And it takes a lot of skill. And the one to ones that are supporting our kids need a lot more training and support than they probably are getting. And that's like a whole nother thing. But, you know, I really want to encourage the parents out there to know that you can become the captain of the ship. The professionals listening,. I really want to encourage you to help these parents become the captain of the ship, welcome them and really make it be a team effort. But the parent is. You know, has a lot of motivation to help their child and will be there in the long term. So, you know, we've been doing a lot. Kelsey's been really leading the way with our Instagram account and Rachel's been leading the way with our TikTok account. And we've been doing a lot of little videos on, you know, kids shouldn't be crying when they're going to therapy. Parents should be involved. So I just want to encourage everybody who is on any platform you can go to Facebook, /TikTok, /Instagram, /YouTube. Follow me. But like, share, comment. It takes a lot of energy to produce all this free content, but we want to reach millions. We are reaching millions and with your help we can even reach more people. So thank you so much. I think this is a great little episode on the top five as we get on social and play skills. Thanks so much for your time today, Kelsey, and thank you for tuning in. We will see you right here next time.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at Where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism. And you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again, go to for all the details. I hope to see you there.