Social skills have become a popular topic in the Autism world.  Many parents find themselves wondering how important are social skills in my child’s life?  Social skills “are those behaviors which within a given situation predict important social outcomes” (J. Krempa, K. Mckinnon, 2002).  They are the rules and expectations of society and everyday life that allow us to connect and be who we are and share who we are.

Many children with Autism go through extensive training of language and cognitive skills; however the perception of social skills is sometimes not addressed with great importance.  As a result, we end up seeing our kiddos frustrated and upset when put in social situations because they lack the ability to communicate and connect with others.

As parents it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish the social impairments your child may have.  In addition, the lack of resources and knowledge of how to properly target certain social skills with your child can be challenging.  Below you will find a list of developmental milestones based on age that will help distinguish what skills your child should be possessing based on his or her age.  In addition you will also find a list of social skills resources that can be beneficial in teaching your child how to be successful in their social life.


Milestones: 1-year-Olds

Motor Development: Gross Motor Skills

  • Sits without support
  • Crawls
  • Pulls self to standing position and stands unaided
  • Walks with aid
  • Rolls a ball in imitation of adult

 Motor Development: Fine Motor Skills

  • Reaches, grasps, puts object in mouth
  • Picks things up with pincer grasp (thumb and one finger)
  • Transfers objects from one hand to the other
  • Drops and picks up toys

Language and Thinking development

  • Follows moving object with eyes
  • Recognizes differences among people; responds to strangers by crying or staring
  • Responds to and imitates facial expressions of others
  • Responds to very simple directions
  • Imitates gestures and actions
  • Puts small objects in and out of container with intention
  • Recognizes name
  • Says 2-3 words besides “mama” and “dada”
  • Imitates familiar words
  • Recognizes words as symbols for objects: Car – points to garage, cat – meows

Social and Emotional Development

  • smiles spontaneously
  • responds differently to strangers than to familiar people
  • pays attention to own name
  • responds to no
  • copies simple actions of others


Milestones: 2-Year-Olds

Motor Development: Gross Motor Skills

  • walks alone
  • walks backwards
  • picks up toys from floor without falling
  • pulls toys, pushes toys
  • seats self in child size chair
  • walks up and down stairs with hand held
  • moves to music

Motor Development: Fine Motor Skills

  • builds tower of three small blocks
  • puts four rings on stick
  • places five pegs in pegboard
  • turns pages two or three at a time
  • scribbles
  • turns knobs
  • throws small ball
  • paints with whole arm movement, shifts hands, makes strokes

Language and Thinking Development

  • Understands “no”
  • Uses 10 to 20 words, including names
  • Combines two words such as “daddy bye-bye”
  • Waves good-bye and plays pat-a-cake
  • Makes the “sounds” of familiar animals
  • Gives a toy when asked
  • Uses words such as “more” to make wants known
  • Points to his or her toes, eyes, and nose
  • Brings object from another room when asked
  • responds to words or commands with appropriate action
  • is able to match two similar objects
  • looks at storybook pictures with an adult, naming or pointing to familiar objects on request
  • recognizes difference between you and me
  • has very limited attention span
  • accomplishes primary learning through own exploration

Social and Emotional Development

  • recognizes self in mirror or picture
  • refers to self by name
  • plays by self; initiates own play
  • imitates adult behaviors in play
  • helps put things away


Milestones: 3-Year-Olds

Motor Development: Gross Motor Skills

  • walks with an agile, almost adult style
  • runs around obstacles
  • catches large balls and throws overhead
  • climbs ladders; uses slide independently
  • rides a tricycle
  • alternates feet when climbing stairs
  • jumps in place with two feet together
  • stands on 1 foot (with aid)
  • walks on tiptoe
  • kicks a ball forward

Motor Development: Fine Motor Skills

  • assembles simple puzzles
  • rolls, pounds, squeezes, and pulls clay
  • copies simple shapes, such as a cross or circle
  • stacks blocks up to nine high
  • strings four large beads
  • turns single pages
  • snips with scissors
  • holds crayon with thumb and fingers (not fist)
  • uses one hand consistently in most activities
  • imitates circular, vertical, horizontal strokes
  • paints with some wrist action, makes dots, lines circular strokes

Language and Thinking Development

  • understands most of what is said and 75 percent of speech is understandable
  • speaks in complete sentences of three to five words
  • matches pictures to objects
  • learns by doing and through the senses
  • understands concepts of “now,” “soon,” and “later”
  • begins to recognize cause-and-effect relationships
  • Identifies body parts
  • Carries on ‘conversation’ with self and dolls
  • Asks “what’s that?” And “where’s my?”
  • Uses 2-word negative phrases such as “no want”.
  • Forms some plurals by adding “s”; book, books
  • Has a 450 word vocabulary
  • Gives first name, holds up fingers to tell age
  • Combines nouns and verbs “mommy go”
  • Understands simple time concepts: “last night”, “tomorrow”
  • Refers to self as “me” rather than by name
  • Tries to get adult attention: “watch me”
  • Likes to hear same story repeated
  • May say “no” when means “yes”
  • Talks to other children as well as adults
  • Solves problems by talking instead of hitting or crying
  • Answers “where” questions
  • Names common pictures and things
  • Uses short sentences like “me want more” or “me want cookie”
  • Matches 3-4 colors, knows big and little

Social and Emotional Development

  • follows simple directions; enjoys helping with household tasks
  • begins to recognize own limits — asks for help
  • likes to play alone, but near other children
  • does not cooperate or share well
  • able to make choices between two things
  • begins to notice other people’s moods and feelings
  • begins to play house
  • knows gender identity
  • symbolically uses objects


Milestones: 4-Year-Olds

Motor Development: Gross Motor Skills

  • running is more controlled; can start, stop, and turn
  • turns somersaults; hops on one foot; gallops
  • can easily catch, throw, and bounce a ball
  • can brush teeth, comb hair, wash, and dress with little assistance

Motor Development: Fine Motor Skills

  • copies crosses and squares
  • prints some letters
  • uses table utensils skillfully
  • cuts on a line

Language and Thinking Development

  • uses a 1,500-word vocabulary; speaks in relatively complex sentences (“Mommy opened the door and the dog ran out.”)
  • understands words that relate one idea to another — if, why, when
  • continues to learn through experience and the senses
  • understands, mostly, the difference between fantasy and reality
  • understands number and space concepts — more, less, bigger, in, under, behind
  • thinks literally; starting to develop logical thinking
  • begins to grasp that pictures and symbols can represent real objects
  • starts to recognize patterns among objects — round things, soft things, animals
  • grasps the concepts of past, present, and future but does not understand the duration of time
  • knows own age
  • has increased understanding of concepts of the functions and grouping of objects and part/whole

Social and Emotional Development

  • takes turns, shares, and cooperates
  • expresses anger verbally rather than physically
  • can feel jealousy
  • may sometimes lie to protect self, but understands the concept of lying
  • enjoys pretending and has a vivid imagination
  • joins in play with other children; begins to interact
  • begins dramatic play, acting out whole scenes


Milestones: 5-Year-Olds

Motor Development: Gross Motor Skills

  • runs in an adult manner
  • walks on tiptoe, broad jumps
  • walks on a balance beam
  • skates and jumps rope
  • skips

Motor Development: Fine Motor Skills

  • hand preference is established
  • laces (but cannot tie) shoes
  • grasps pencil like an adult
  • colors within lines
  • cuts and pastes simple shapes

Language and Thinking Development

  • speaks fluently; correctly uses plurals, pronouns, tenses
  • very interested in words and language; seeks knowledge
  • understands and names opposites
  • uses complex language
  • still confuses fantasy and reality at times
  • thinking is still naïve; doesn’t use adult logic
  • draws a person with two to six recognizable parts, such as head, arms, and legs; can name or match parts to own body
  • draws, names, and describes recognizable pictures
  • knows own street and town
  • has increased understanding of concepts of function, time, part/whole relationships; function or use of objects.
  • Increased time concept; can talk about yesterday, last week, today and what will happen tomorrow.

Social and Emotional Development

  • distinguishes right from wrong, honest from dishonest, but does not recognize intent
  • plays make-believe and dresses up
  • mimics adults and seeks praise
  • seeks to play rather than be alone; friends are important
  • plays with both boys and girls but prefers the same sex
  • wants to conform; may criticize those who do not
  • dramatic play is closer to reality, with attention paid to detail, time, and space


Milestones: 6-year-olds

Motor Development

  • may still be somewhat uncoordinated and gawky
  • able to learn to ride a bicycle
  • can move in time with music or a beat

Language & Thinking Development

  • moving toward abstract thinking
  • develops reasoning skills
  • shifts from learning through observation and experience to learning via language and logic
  • wants it all; has difficulty making choices

Social & Emotional Development

  • grows more independent, yet feels less secure
  • craves affection from parents and teachers
  • friendships are unstable; can be unkind to peers
  • needs to win and may change rules to suit herself
  • may be hurt by criticism, blame, or punishment
  • can be rigid, demanding, and unable to adapt
  • increasingly aware that others have may have different feelings


Milestones: 7-year-olds

Motor Development

  • hand-eye coordination is well developed
  • has good balance
  • can execute simple gymnastic movements, such as somersaults

Language and Thinking Development

  • uses a vocabulary of several thousand words
  • demonstrates a longer attention span
  • uses serious, logical thinking; is thoughtful and reflective
  • able to understand reasoning and make the right decisions
  • can tell time; knows the days, months, and seasons
  • can describe points of similarity between two objects
  • begins to grasp that letters represent the sounds that form words
  • able to solve more complex problems
  • individual learning style becomes more clear-cut

Social and Emotional Development

  • desires to be perfect and is quite self-critical
  • worries more; may have low self-confidence
  • tends to complain; has strong emotional reactions
  • understands the difference between right and wrong
  • takes direction well; needs punishment only rarely
  • avoids and withdraws from adults
  • is a better loser and less likely to place blame
  • waits for her turn in activities
  • starts to feel guilt and shame



Social Skill Activities for Special Children by Darlene Mannix, Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint.

Social Skills Training by Jed E. Baker, Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Social Skills Solutions a Hands-on Manual for teaching social Skills to children with Autism by Janis Krempa and Kelly McKinnon.

-Think Social! A Social Thinking Curriculum for School-Age Students by Michelle Garcia Winner, Think Social Publishing, Inc.


Social Skills Groups:

Creative Solutions for Hope currently has social skill groups the following day and times


3-5 year olds is conducted from 3:30-4:30pm

5-7 year olds is conducted from 3:30-4:30pm

8-12 year olds is conducted from 4:45-5:45pm

For further information about our social skills group please contact Leah Jarvis at [email protected] or call 714-881-0427 Ext. 1720


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