ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) --- The COVID pandemic brought many challenges for families – especially for those with children with learning needs. Now, a new study shows that supportive interactions between parents and kids can help toddlers with social situations.

Parents are always looking for ways to help their kids make friends.

But if you have a child with autism, social interaction may be tricky. Now, researchers say with the right tools, parents can help toddlers with autism engage with others. In a study of 144 families of one-to-three-year-olds with autism, toddlers whose parents took part in a special program to support social communication showed significant improvements that they maintained over a six-month period. Social communication is about paying attention to others and sharing their interests even before a child has learned to talk.

Scientists say parents can try some of the same activities at home to help toddlers pay attention to faces and take turns while communicating. For example, hide a toy in a small bag and pull the bag close to your face so your toddler will look at you before pulling out the toy. Then, make an excited noise so they will look back at your face. Another idea: play dress-up with silly hats or scarves! When your child looks between the object and your face, give meaning by smiling and giggling.

Here’s another idea to try at home: use a remote-controlled car and make it go. Give meaning to the experience by stopping the car and gasping out loud. Wait for your child to look from the toy to your face. When they do, smile and make the car go again and repeat!