ABA Social Skills Activities

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), most often used for students with autism, provides a strong framework for teaching social skills. Use these activities with students of any age to help develop important skills of verbal or nonverbal communication.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Social Skills Activities

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) lends itself well to teaching social skills. It provides a framework for goal setting, accomplishment, and reinforcement. Social skills are a significant challenge for students with autism especially. Providing social skills instruction and practice in small steps will have a more significant result than tackling large goals. These activities can be used with an age, although a stage of social skill development is suggested for each (beginning, intermediate, advanced). Additionally, each activity is designed to be used with partners or teams, although they can be modified for a one-on-one session, as well.

Beginning: Give and Receive

  • Materials: a variety of familiar items

In this activity, students will practice requesting, giving, and receiving items from one another. Begin by providing a familiar item to each student. Alternatively, allow them to choose from a selection of items. Place students into teams or partners and have them describe their item to one another. Their descriptions can be simple and straightforward or more elaborate, depending on the level.

Next, instruct students in the art of requesting an item from someone else. Demonstrate with role playing, if possible. Now, have students request the item from a teammate or partner. Do not require that they fill the request yet. After ensuring that everyone is on-point with how to ask for an item, you may want to delve into different options or give some non-examples. It is better to say ''may I hold the Rubik's cube for a moment?'' than ''give me that.''

Then, explain to students the courtesies involved in giving and receiving items. Demonstrate with role playing, if possible. Have students make the request again and this time, the partner or teammate should respond to the request appropriately and give the item to the other person. Circulate to ensure that students have fully grasped the concept and are practicing the skill properly. Allow students to partner with new classmates for additional practice.

Lastly, provide some time for discussion of proper and improper ways to handle giving and receiving, such as refusing to give back an item, remembering to say ''thank you'' and ''you're welcome'', and what options are available if they do not want to give the item to a friend.

Intermediate: I See, You See

  • Materials: art supplies

In this activity, students will engage in parallel play with a twist, as they will converse with one another about their actions. Provide space for student partners to work next to or across from one another. Instruct students that while they create their artwork, they will periodically notice what their partner is doing and make verbal observations. Practice encouraging, positive statements and give some ideas for what kind of observations they can make. For example, they can notice the colors, the patterns, or the shapes.

Encourage them to make observations naturally, but if the process does not work out as planned, you can make a slight change. Use a soft sound to remind students when it's time to take a moment to observe their partner. At the end of their observation, they can ask ''what do you see?'' to prompt a response from their partner. Alternatively, you may want to use two different sounds so that partner A observes when one is signal is heard and partner B observes when the other is heard. Monitor to determine if the goal is being achieved and provide feedback as needed.

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