It is frequently believed that autism is characterized by a lack of social or emotional reciprocity. In this lecture, I question that assumption. I begin my reminding all of us that reciprocity is “a relation of mutual dependence or action or influence,” “a mode of exchange in which transactions take place between individuals who are symmetrically placed." However, sometimes, as clinicians, researchers, and parents, we forget that reciprocity needs to be mutual and symmetrical – that reciprocity is a two-way street. Research is reviewed that illustrates when professionals, peers, and parents are taught to act reciprocally, autistic children become more responsive. In one randomized clinical trial of “reciprocity training” to parents, their autistic children’s language developed rapidly and their social engagement increased markedly. Other demonstrations of how parents and professionals can increase their behavior of reciprocity are provided.

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