Delays in social skill development are one of the most telling signs of autism. A child may not respond to their name, engage in pretend play, or even notice that another child or person has joined them. Additionally, a child may lack the “Theory of Mind,” which is the ability to tell what others are thinking or might be feeling. Other social indicators of non-vocal communication, such as facing the person they are talking to or making eye contact, may also be absent.
Many times, children with autism will not initiate contact with family members or others, even if they are encouraged to do so. Since almost all learning is social, this behavior can often be the toughest barrier for children within the autism spectrum to progress through. These delays create obstacles to the most common learning modalities, including group instruction, classroom teaching, and peer-to-peer learning.