Building Social Skills with Students Who Are Nonverbal

Taking Turns

Turn taking is a great skill to target with all of your learners but your kids who struggle with receptive language skills will hugely benefit from this activity. Turn-taking is the foundation of a conversation and is the first stepping stone towards effective social skills. Children with autism sometimes struggle to engage with their peers. Working on turn-taking targets social skills and communication while creating a more independent and aware individual.

Check out this post for in-depth ideas for teaching turn-taking. My suggestions are to use visuals, use an exciting and highly engaging object, and physically move the object when taking turns. By starting with something simple like a toy instead of something more complex like a turn in a game, your students that are new to this concept will have a more concrete idea of how to take turns!

Be Part of the Group

I shared a post last week about the importance of being part of a group. It’s a good goal for any student. You can differentiate the specific goal you have related to group behavior but for all of your students they should have consistent opportunities to work on being part of a group of peers. For some kids the specific goal may be just sitting near other students while for another child the goal may be to exchange a visual greeting card. Working on being part of a group will take practice, repetition, and reinforcement just like any other skill we teach! So don’t make it an “every now and then” type of activity. Make sure every student has the chance to be part of a group every single day. 

Answering Yes/No Questions

Teaching the ability to answer yes and no is extremely important and functional. Think of how often ask our students questions that require a yes or no response. The idea of yes and no is somewhat vague. The answer highly depends on the question and we need to ensure that our kids even understand the question before we expect the correct response.

Teach this concept using concrete questions like, “Is this a banana?” Have students answering using their AAC device, a visual, a switch, or PECS book. Once this skill is mastered, have your student work on this with peers. Incorporate peer buddies in your classroom and have your students pair up with a student with more verbal skills. Have the student be the facilitator and ask the questions. It’s a great, structured way to get your kids interacting! 

Daily Greetings

I have talked a lot lately about greetings. This is something that you can easily and naturally incorporate into your daily routine and something that all of your students can participate in. Have your students greet their peers and teachers every day using visuals, AAC devices, or even just a wave. 

Visual Questions

Visual questions are another on of my favorite resources. It gives us the chance to use visuals beyond the “I want” phrase. Incorporate this into morning meeting or circle time! Here is my set of Visual Questions Cards.


  1. Are there any social groups for adults with NonVerbal Communcation??

  2. Great question! I would ask local agencies or any vocational training groups in your area!


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