Social Skills Training for Students with Autism

Instructor: Jennifer Moon
This lesson provides an overview of some of the social skill and interpersonal communication difficulties that students with Autism Spectrum Disorders face. It also provides some classroom scenarios of how teachers can help lessen these difficulties and directly teach social skills.

Social Skills Training for Students with Autism

While social skills, like talking to friends and using manners, comes naturally to most of us, students with Autism Spectrum Disorders experience difficulties with social skill acquisition. Therefore, social skills are something these students have to be taught, just like reading or math skills.

Social skills training refers to the direct, step-by-step instruction of accepted forms of interpersonal communication and actions needed to interact with others socially. It can be done in a variety of settings with a variety of personnel, but is often times most effective in a school setting, just like the learning of academics.

It is important to remember that Autism Spectrum Disorders are often classified by the impact the disorder has on people. Some individuals have mild social impairments, while others have social impairments that are severe. Difficulties can range from lack of eye contact, to biting and kicking others. Let's explore some difficulties caused by a lack of adequate social skills that children with autism might experience, and how service providers at their school can help them.

Classroom Social Skill Instruction Scenarios

Allen is a 7-year old boy with a diagnosis of autism. He likes goldfish crackers and maps, but his favorite thing is trains. He likes to tell all his classmates in Mrs. Smith's kindergarten class about freight trains and passenger trains and steam trains and black trains and old trains and new trains and . . . whew! His classmates don't listen to him talk about trains anymore but Allen doesn't seem to notice. He continues to talk about trains even when his classmates look down, look away, or even talk to other friends. Allen is unable to read non-verbal cues, the way his typically developing classmates are able to do. He spends time in a social skills group with other friends who have difficulty reading non-verbal cues. They role play, by pretending that they are interested - or uninterested - in what another person is talking about. They talk explicitly as a group about what each clue means. Like, when a friend looks away, that might mean they are no longer interested in what someone has to say. The speech-language pathologist who leads the group has collaborated with Allen's teacher to help her reinforce what Allen has learned in his group. When Mrs. Smith sees a natural opportunity arise in her class to talk about non-verbal cues, she talks to the whole class about it. This helps Allen, but it also helps his classmates be good peer models for Allen in the area of reading non-verbal cues.

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