The Friendship Lab – Social Skills Groups for children with autism

Does your ASD child struggle to:

  • Understand the subtle social rules of playground relationships?
  • Get involved in games and activities enjoyed by peers?
  • Need to learn how to make and keep friends?

THE FRIENDSHIP LAB is a positive and practical social skills program for children aged 6 to 8 who attend mainstream schools and are diagnosed with Autism.

The Friendship Lab - Social Skills Groups for children with autism


When children with autism attend mainstream schools, it can be difficult for them to navigate the politics of the playground and manage the social demands of games and conversations.

THE FRIENDSHIP LAB has been developed specifically by Kids First’s multi-disciplinary team using the latest research about helping children with ASD make and keep healthy friendships.

Each FRIENDSHIP Lab is led by a highly qualified and experienced psychologist, who in partnership with teachers and other therapists, gives children who are ‘on the spectrum’ a safe place in which to experiment, learn and practice social skills.


THE FRIENDSHIP LAB focuses on building your child’s empathy, communication and interaction skills.

Fun weekly sessions will give your child the chance to ‘experiment’ and learn about:

  • How to respond to greetings, conversations and compliments
  • Non-verbal communication like facial expressions and body language
  • Other people’s opinions and interests (and how they might differ from their own)
  • Getting involved in a game that has already begun (reading social cues)
  • Ways to invite other children to play
  • Initiating and maintaining a conversation
  • Listening to and cooperating with others
  • Negotiating and compromising
  • Seeking help in appropriate ways
  • Managing emotional moments and increasing emotional resilience

Why are social skills important for your child?

Social skills are important to develop the ability to relate and connect to others, however children diagnosed with autism often find this difficult.

In the playground, children’s social communication starts to mature at around the age of 6 or 7, and this is frequently the point at which children on the Autism Spectrum start to experience social isolation and exclusion.

The aim of Kids First’s new social skills program for primary schoolers will be the development of key social and emotional capabilities that are important for:

  • Increased self esteem
  • Positive mental health outcomes
  • Increased participation in the community
  • Improved overall well-being

Do rebates apply for THE FRIENDSHIP LAB?

Yes. Children who participate in THE FRIENDSHIP LAB may be eligible for NDIS, Helping Children with Autism, private health insurance or Medicare rebates.

Please contact Kids First to discuss your child’s access to THE FRIENDSHIP LAB under the NDIS.

Your health fund will be able to advise if your policy covers psychology groups.  Your family doctor is the most appropriate person to speak with regarding your child’s eligibility for a Medicare plan.

A child psychologist in Sydney's northern beaches explains the 5 stages of children's frien

How will I know if THE FRIENDSHIP LAB is the right choice for my child?

** Important information for parents, teachers and school counsellors

Every child has different needs… and sometimes, a small group experience might not be the best clinical option for your child at this point in time.

That’s why, if you are a parent of a child who is interested in THE FRIENDSHIP LAB, we require you to attend a preliminary session with one of our psychologists prior to the start of the program.

Why do parents need to meet the psychologist first?

Giving you the chance to share your child’s social struggles in a private and confidential setting before we meet your child is very important.

As a parent or carer, you can give us the ‘big picture’ about how your child is coping at home and school.

You can tell us about your child’s personality, likes, dislikes and the social situations that they have struggled with in the past, or are dealing with now.

We want your child to have the best possible chance of success… and knowing as much as possible about your child’s challenges will help you, with the help of our psychologist, to make informed decisions.

It will also help our psychologist to tailor the group to meet the individual needs of each child who participates in it.

If you or the psychologist decide that the THE FRIENDSHIP LAB small group program is not in your child’s best interest right now, that’s okay!

Our psychologist will suggest alternate professional and personal options that will be the best fit for your family.

Find out more about THE FRIENDSHIP LAB

We welcome your inquiry and would be happy to arrange an appointment so that you can discuss your child’s social and emotional needs with one of Kids First’s experienced psychologists.

You can call us on (02) 9938 5419 or provide your details in the comments box below and we will be in touch to have a chat with you as soon as possible.