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Do Autistic Children Tend to Be More Social With Adults?

by Amber Keefer, studioD

While many autistic children have normal language skills, they may still lack the social skills they need to build meaningful relationships with other children the same age. Unfortunately, problems arise when kids who can't use language effectively are unable to communicate their emotions and make their feelings known, points out the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. As with other symptoms, the level of social impairment in children with ASD varies.

Social Skills

Characteristics of high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD), formerly known as Asperger syndrome, usually include limited interests, strange mannerisms, engaging in one-sided conversations and speaking unusually fast or in a monotone voice. Since children with high functioning autism can have advanced language and intellectual skills, they often relate better to adults, points out KidsHealth. Yet they generally have poor social skills, which can make them appear more socially immature than their peers. As a result, other children tend to see them as being odd, which leads to difficulty making friends with kids their own age.

Language Skills

Although kids with high-functioning autism usually don’t have language delays like other children on the autism spectrum, the disorder affects how they use language when interacting with others. Children at the high-functioning end of the spectrum often have advanced vocabularies from an early age, yet they typically have difficulty reading body language and show a tendency to take things literally. Despite these social impairments, because of their highly developed language skills, children with high-functioning autism can be quite conversational with adults.


Because of their lack of social skills, other children often misunderstand kids with autism spectrum disorders. Children with ASD who are highly intelligent and use vocabulary that their peers don’t understand frequently get labeled as being weird or quirky. Adults may be more accepting of their behaviors, making it easier for them to relate to another individual. Although all children need adult attention, it’s even more important for kids who need help in developing their social skills. Along with modeling appropriate social behavior, adults can help by building a positive and supportive relationship with a child who may feel socially isolated and rejected by his peers.

Encouraging Interaction

While most kids with ASD have trouble interacting with other children and sometimes even adults, engaging a child in social interaction is key. If your child doesn’t respond at first, it’s important to keep trying. Since it can be difficult for a child with autism to initiate conversation on her own, by following your child’s lead and responding to what she does, you are encouraging further interaction. You can also help by encouraging friendships between your child with ASD and other children.

About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

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