The Hope Source

The Purple Philosophy: Social Communication 

When it comes to ASD and social communication, supporting social interaction is an important piece of the puzzle. At The Hope Source, we recognize that offering safe, supportive opportunities for students to engage in age-appropriate peer interaction facilitates growth and leads to competence. Fostering social competence is reliant on honing the skills of social referencing and reciprocity.
In order to engage in a social interaction, a person needs to be able to take another’s perspective and adjust the interaction accordingly. One of the challenges faced by individuals with autism is an overall lack of awareness of the feelings and emotional states of others and failure to pick up on nonverbal cues like facial expressions, inflection and intonation of voice.
We often see that a child or adolescent on the spectrum is failing in traditional school environments, not because of academic content, but because the social environment and demands in social cognition and social communication are so high.
Individuals with ASD often do not understand why friendships are not developing or how to recognize and repair the breakdown. This leads to anxiety surrounding school and thus, impacts academic success. By creating an environment in which students on the spectrum can explore peer interaction and develop academic skills, The Hope Source and Dynamic Minds Academy offers the best of both worlds!
Aristotle knew and we agree; Both are critical to education and long term quality of life.


Want more information? Here’s a start:

  1. To read the most recent Purple Philosophy blog post, click here:
  2. For more information about social communication and how it relates to autism and the D12, click here:
  3. To learn how to use simple games to practice nonverbal communication with your child, click here:




Game Time! 

This is a revisit of a Facebook post we made way back in 2013 but it’s a good one!

Try these fun, nonverbal games/activities with your family to practice and strengthen your child’s ability to “read” others’ nonverbal cues and communication:

Charades: try acting out different emotions to help your child interpret your body language, facial expressions, and gestures.

Name that Face: you could practice the skill of interpreting others’ facial expressions in a variety of ways.

Peek-a-Boo with a twist: Hide your face and reveal a different expression, giving your child time to process and label the emotion being expressed.

Facial Expression Sort: Have a pictorial collection of faces expressing a wide range of emotions (magazine clippings would work great) and sort through the faces, categorizing them by the emotion expressed.

Mirror Me: Use a mirror so both you and your child can see your faces. Take turns making a facial expressions that the partner practices matching.

Family Feelings: Take pictures of each of your family members expressing several different emotions. Print off the pictures and create collages or posters for each emotion. To extend the activity further, list different scenarios in daily life that make you feel that emotion.

Have fun! We’d love to hear about your experience so comment below!

By Julie Brant Gordon, LCSW

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggle with appropriate play, often engaging in scripted, rigid and isolated play.  Pretend play requires foundational skills in social communication, joint attention,  and flexibility – all areas of core deficit. It requires self-talk, adapting to another person’s variations and characters and generating symbols and elaborations. We often don’t see the connection to play as early learning. When it has a significant impact on later academic success.

What is Pretend Play?

  • Pretend play begins with simple representations – we agree that this block is a giraffe.
  • Pretend play is exploring and imitating daily tasks – what happens when I push this broom around like Mom did?
  • Pretend play is reenacting everyday life – play food in a play grocery store
  • Pretend play includes characters engaging – your doll invites my doll to a tea party
  • Pretend play is dynamic – the ground is lava and if you touch it, you’re out!

What is Role Play?

  • Role play takes characters to another level – I am someone else and you are someone else
  • Role play requires evolving scenarios – think theater!
  • Role play aides in social development and problem solving – practicing how you are going to introduce yourself, say I’m sorry or present a project in front of other.
  • Role play can also aide in reading comprehension – visualizing the picture that author is describing

Pretend play is most often associated with young children. But it is critical that transition-aged adolescents on the Autism Spectrum develop this skill. Choose age-appropriate ways to play and real-world scenarios to explore!

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