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Impact on Social Skills and Behaviour

 People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) find social interaction challenging – this is one of the main features of the disorder.

Students with ASD encounter difficulty with understanding important features of communication such as:

  • verbal language,
  • body language,
  • facial expression,
  • tone of voice,
  • sarcasm/irony,
  • figures of speech,
  • slang, and
  • social hints and cues.


Even “straightforward” social interactions can be very challenging for the student with ASD as a result. In addition to core challenges with language, challenges with organisational skills can create difficulty.  Theory of mind makes it possible to imagine the reasons behind the behaviour of others and predict what they might do next.  Students with ASD who have an undeveloped theory of mind may find their peers confusing and unpredictable. They may have trouble predicting what their peers expect from them in different situations, or imagining how their peers might react to their comments and behaviour.



Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) sometimes do not understand what is expected of them socially, or may not correctly interpret the “simple” communication of others. This creates difficulty with knowing what to do in social situations. Students may behave in ways that are confusing for their peers and this can sometimes put a strain on relationships with peers.

Some students with ASD develop anxiety about participating in social interactions, because they are confusing, frustrating, or because the student is aware that they are making social “mistakes”.



Difficulties with communication may result in the student not understanding “simple” instructions and appearing to be defiant or uncooperative. Students may have difficulty interpreting their teacher’s non-verbal cues and making assumptions about what is expected of them behaviourally.


Students who struggle to communicate efficiently through spoken language may use their behaviour to communicate. For example, a student who is feeling overwhelmed by a work task may not know how best to ask for help and may throw their books to the floor to communicate that they are frustrated and confused. Such communication can sometimes be misinterpreted by teachers as misbehaviour. It is worth examining whether the student has been taught a method for appropriately communicating frustration in the classroom.