Nov 13

ABA TIPS for Expats by Aspire- ABA Center Europe (ACE)

Last week, we introduced our series: Expand social skills. Expats travel all over the world, and sometimes only settle for some years in another community. Therefore, strong social skills are needed for both children and parents to adapt and be successful in the (new) environment.  This week’s blog includes how to sustain the conversation, and next time we will include how to sustain a friendship.
Read our tips on how to initiate a social conversation here.

For individuals who have difficulties in conversations, there may be awkward silences, unrelated points of information, or trouble in understanding social cues indicating disinterest or end of a conversation. While for many people these skills come naturally, for some, they are completely foreign and complex. Try using the social stories to practice these complex skills before trying out your new skills in real life.


Follow our guidelines for how to sustain a conversation:

  • As suggested in our initial post, first begin with a topic of interest. Not only will you have more information to share, your interest will show through and make the conversation more engaging.
  • Often times a conversation can begin with sharing an item/toy with someone, or by offering to help them. For example, “Do you want to play with my Legos with me?” Then the topic of the conversation can already begin with discussing Legos.
  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage the conversation to keep flowing (open-ended questions are ones that cannot be answered with a yes or no direct answer). For example, “What other types of games do you like to play?” or “What are you building?”
  • Stay on topic during the conversation. Once you have identified what the conversation is about, you can continue to comment and ask questions that are related to that main topic. For example, by starting a conversation with: “Have you played the new MarioKart game?” we have identified the topic as MarioKart. Related questions could be: “Who is your favorite character” or “What is your favorite level?”staying on topic
  • Remember that a conversation is half speaking, half listening. Specifically, the listening should be engaged listening, meaning the listener is actively thinking about what is being spoken. To practice this skill with your child, verbally tell or read a story, then ask your child to repeat the details he remembers, or ask him specific questions about the story.
    being a good listener
  • After listening to the other person talk, you should respond. You can make a generic comment like “That’s _______!” by filling in the blank with the appropriate word: cool, great, terrible, etc. Or make a comment related to yourself like, “I like to do that too!” or “I’ve never done that.”


  • A helpful tip for more pleasant conversations is to compliment the other person. You can compliment an activity they are engaged in, “I like your drawing,” or compliment something that is of interest to you, “I like your Star Wars backpack.” This again can lead to follow up questions relating to the initial topic of the drawing, or Star Wars.
  • Find common interests. If your initial conversation starter did not determine a shared interest, you can ask an open-ended questions about the other person’s hobbies or interests to determine if you have something in common to discuss further.
  • Occasionally, take a few seconds to focus on your nonverbal impression: smile, stand up straight, look at the other person when they are talking (it is also acceptable to nod while listening), and stand arm’s length apart. Parents, you can practice these skills at home with your child through role play, modeling, or social stories. Remember to reinforce your child throughout this learning process- you can use a checklist like the one below and when your child has engaged in 4 out of 5 behaviors, he can earn a reward.
  • Also, expat parents remember that these tips may also benefit you in your new community as you start to build new friendships!

Social Narrative- personal space using social skills checklist



Interested in receiving professional, customized ABA services for your family in the home, after-school program or at school in the Netherlands or Spain? Our BCBA and staff will help with behavior challenges, developmental delays, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Disorders, ADHD or related disorders. Contact Aspire- ABA Center Europe (ACE) at or visit:


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