Hello, and thank you for joining us today for the Strategies for Social Competence and Other Relationships webinar. I am Julie Babyak, an Ohio State University School Psychology Intern with OCALI. OCALI is the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. And, my name is Wendy Szakacs and I am the Regional Coach for Autism and Low Incidence at OCALI in the northeast and eastern parts of Ohio. We serve families, educators and professionals working with students with low incidence disabilities including autism, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairments, other health impairments, and traumatic brain injury. Our mission is to build state- and system-wide capacity to improve outcomes through leadership, training and professional development, technical assistance, collaboration and technology.
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Thanks Wendy. Today, we are going to show you strategies to use for developing social competence and also discuss how to foster positive parent and sibling relationships with individuals with autism and a little information about romantic relationships for those on the spectrum.
Today's presentation will help you use supports to build social competence before and after social situations. You will also be able to identify relationship-building key points for parents, siblings, and romantic relationships.
So, let's review the definition you learned in the first webinar and remember what we mean by social competence. Social competence is the ability to interact successfully with peers and adults in a variety of situations and environments. An individual that possesses social competence is therefore able to participate in social situations. Social competence is more than simply learning or mastering discrete social skills, such as saying hello, how are you today or please and thank you. There are many things to know, remember, and react to. We all try to follow the social rules we have acquired; we are able to know that other people have thoughts and what those thoughts might be by listening to their language while watching their facial and body language; we can identify and understand our own emotions and the emotions of others, or we converse about them until we can gain understanding; we are able to enter different situations and know how to dress, talk, move, and behave.
Consider this quote from Michelle Winner, an author who writes about social thinking: "Social competence means one is able to adapt to an ever-changing landscape that takes into consideration the environment, the people in it, the thoughts, beliefs and needs of the individual and others who share the environment-whether or not they are in direct communication-as well as individual and collective history of knowledge and experience." Social interactions and behaviors are extremely complex, which is what makes social competence difficult to teach. Because social competence comes naturally to neurotypicals (which is a word used to describe those who do not have autism), it is not a natural process for neurotypicals to break down how to acquire social competency nor how to teach it. We use social abilities pretty much every waking moment-choosing what we will wear for the situation of the day; interpreting what is happening when watching TV or reading a book; and how we behave when we are with people. Those that are skilled in social competence keep mental records of people they know and how to interact with them, which is an intricate procedure to recall and react in appropriate ways.
There are various strategies for building social competence. The strategies listed on this slide are proactive strategies that can be used all the time to help build social competence. These 7 proactive strategies will be described in the following slides.
One proactive strategy is using a schedule or social "rule" card. A schedule may help a student or a child understand what is happening and may reduce anxiety during a stressful situation. Remember that a visual support is almost always better than a verbal explanation.
This slide shows an example of a visual support for anger management. This visual support uses pictures and text in order to help the child think, wait and then act before they become too upset or angry. And remember that this sequence will need to be taught, practiced, and reinforced for it to become a natural reaction to use instead of melting down.
Remember in earlier webinars we talked about the importance of teaching social skills as part of gaining social competence. Understanding social skills are crucial in developing friendship skills also. Children need to know how and when to use various social skills in order to develop successful friendships. Some social skills include asking for help, using names, listening, helping others, taking turns, knowing how to share, and initiating conversation. There are many programs available from the OCALI Lending Library to teach the skills that an individual needs to learn.
Social StoriesTM are another proactive strategy for building social competence. Social StoriesTM were developed by Carol Gray. A Social StoryTM describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. The goal of a Social StoryTM is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience. Half of all Social StoriesTM developed should affirm something that an individual does well. Although the goal of a StoryTM should never be to change the individual's behavior, that individual's improved understanding of events and expectations may lead to more effective responses.
The formula for writing Social StoriesTM uses four different types of sentences. The four types are: descriptive which tells who, what, where, and why; directive which tells the student what to do; perspective sentences that describe feelings and reactions; and control sentences that help the student connect the information to something he or she knows and can remember. Examples of the four types of sentences are on the following slide.
These are examples of the four different types of sentences used in Social StoriesTM. The descriptive sentences are telling who, what, where, and why; the directive sentences are saying what to do to come in from recess; the perspective sentences are explaining how the teacher and other students are feeling about coming in from recess; and the control sentences help the student relate coming in to water being ready for tea when the kettle whistles. A story using these sentences that is read consistently before recess time can help a student learn how to come in from recess.
This slide gives an example of a Social StoryTM. Many students, like Kyle, need to learn about playing with each other. This could be a beginning story to help Kyle start thinking about what and how to play with other children. Other stories could follow describing specific activities or games to play.
Written descriptions about social and play situations can help our children with social challenges learn about new skills. Social narratives do not follow a prescriptive formula like Social Stories, but can also get the point across. For more information on Social Narratives, see the Autism Internet Module on Social Narratives.
Having scripts and pictures throughout the classroom or home for everyone to use can help the individual with ASD feel more a part of the group. These techniques can be helpful for many students. Using a script to expand a special interest area is very motivating and can help with learning social competence techniques. This script was written for a little guy who loved cooking shows. His teacher had a play kitchen area in the classroom, so she then gathered props and made picture cue cards to foster pretend cooking play. Some individuals may also need modeling to understand how to use the script and materials. This modeling could be peers or adults.
Another strategy may be video modeling. This may be a great way for the child to see the appropriate behavior and expectation of the classroom. Consider videoing a child exhibiting proper behavior in your class and then allow a student that is struggling with that social skill to view the video and to see what the expectations are. This works great for the child who enjoys watching videos. Using videos from the Internet such as YouTube or commercial products can also be beneficial. You can also make your own videos using a flip video camera or a cell phone.
This is a video-modeling example for playing kickball. If a child is showing an interest by watching kick ball games or approaching a game that is happening or if the child is going to be playing kickball in a physical education class, then sharing this video, probably multiple times prior to the event, can help prepare him or her for the experience. You can explain what is happening during the video so the student understands the rules of the game and what actions he or she might be performing. Allowing the student to control the video play can let them see parts over and over to increase understanding.
SODA, or Stop-Observe-Deliberate-Act, can be used to teach children and other individuals with ASD how to approach new social situations. This gives individuals steps to follow when entering a social event. Stop means to wait when you first arrive at the social happening and figure out what is going on. Observing allows the person to check out what the social atmosphere is. Deliberate lets the individual come up with ways to be successful and Act is the follow through on those chosen actions. Here's an example on the next slide.
A teen is going to watch a movie at a friend's house. He hesitates briefly at the entrance to the family room. He takes in who is there, where they are sitting, what they are talking about, and how are they are behaving. He thinks about the best place to sit, who he is comfortable being near, possible things to talk about, and if he might want a snack. This probably happens pretty quickly, although it may take some individuals a bit longer. Then he sits by his buddy Jacob since he stays calm most of the time and has similar interests. He also decides to eat some popcorn since everyone else is too. The SODA framework allowed this teen to successfully enter and navigate a social situation.
This slide provides additional social activities for children and individuals with ASD. If a person is interested in reading, musical instruments, or board games, then those might be good areas to try to include a peer and expand a favored activity to a social activity. If an individual enjoys sensory activities, then try introducing others into the experiences and make it a social interaction with a sensory as a base. The last section has some ideas to support some individuals as they learn how to interact. Those are some proactive strategies to use that will help develop social competence. Wendy will now share some reactive strategies.
There are various strategies for building social competence. The strategies listed on this slide are reactive strategies that can be used after a misunderstanding or when a social situation goes wrong. These 4 reactive strategies will be discussed in detail on the following slides.
Comic Strip Conversations, also developed by Carol Gray, can help bring social understanding. After a situation happens that involves a misunderstanding of social cues, you can draw with the individual to discover what happened and what they were thinking. Going through the situation visually can help the person see in pictures where things went wrong and how to change them for the next time. Comic strip conversations are simple drawings between 2 or more people that illustrate a situation that occurred. They can show speech and thought bubbles. You can also use different colors to represent different emotions. Once the comic strip is completed, it can be used to review the situation and teach the individual about the social aspects, especially to discuss what the individual and other people were thinking and feeling.
This is one example of a comic strip conversation. This was a child with limited verbal abilities who was able to help the teacher figure out what his behavior meant. Roy pushed his peer in the bus line, at playtime, and in the cafeteria. Roy then said, "swing", so the teacher drew the swing set and remembered that LaVerne often asked Roy to push her on the swing. He was trying to play with her! Now, what if that teacher had just decided that the pushing was "misbehavior" and applied negative consequences, like keeping him away from LaVerne or giving him a time out? Any negative reaction could have stopped Roy from trying to interact with his peers. Finding out his motivation allowed the teacher to know what Roy needed to learn to develop social competence for this situation. Cartooning is a visual strategy that can allow the individual to express what happened and how they viewed the situation while giving understanding to the teacher or parent, and a tool to use for bringing new understanding to the situation.
Social Autopsies are used after a social situation goes wrong. They can be used to teach how to handle the situation correctly the next time. Social Autopsies can also show cause and effect of the situation, they use positive reinforcement, teach problem-solving framework and utilize pictures and/or words. Let's take a look at the steps and an example on the next slide.
Following classroom social rules affects how classmates perceive their peers. So, the first question in the Social Autopsy is "What happened?" In this case, the student kept interrupting Tasha's presentation. The next question is "What was the social error? And who was hurt by that error?" The student states that she hurt Tasha and her other classmates. This step may take a little work to get an answer if the perception of the individual with autism doesn't match what happened in the social situation. Question number three is "What should be done to correct the error?" The student believes she should apologize to Tasha and to the class. This might not be the answer for every student or class, as the Social Autopsy needs to be individualized to the individual and the situation. The fourth question asks, "What should be done next time?" This allows some conversation about what could have happened and what to consider doing when the situation arises again. If an individual with autism is not considered polite because they keep interrupting others, it will not help build friendships. Social autopsies help the person recognize what happened, come up with solutions to fix what happened, and think about how to act the next time.
This slide describes SOCCSS or Situation-Options-Consequences-Choices-Strategies-Simulation. SOCCSS is a social decision-making process designed to help individuals with ASD understand social situations. Individuals who struggle with social understanding can benefit from this problem-solving approach when learning to choose appropriate social behavior. This takes an individual through an approach for how to think through a social situation and come up with the best solution for them. Having a practice step allows them to build confidence before approaching the situation. Let's take a look at the steps using an example on the next two slides.
Step one in SOCCSS is to describe the social situation. In this case, Luis came over to this person's house to play. They wanted to play different things, and so the individual with autism got upset. The next step in SOCCSS is to identify all of the possible options for the social situation. This helps the individual with autism see that there are usually many ways to think about any situation.
The third step in SOCCSS is to determine the consequences for each of the options from step two. Step four has the individual prioritizing each of the choices and deciding on one option, while considering the possible consequences. The fifth step is to develop strategies for the chosen option, such as this situation in which the individual decides that doing some of what they each want to do is the best idea. And then Step six is Simulation, or practicing the strategies. To help the individual with autism get comfortable with the new social behavior, teaching and practice needs to take place. In this situation, the parents are practicing with their child to help him get used to doing something he wouldn't choose to do and then something he likes to do. This will help him be ready for the next time that Luis visits!
A stress thermometer tells parents and educators where children and individuals with ASD are thinking differently about how situations are affecting them. What seems little to us may actually feel very important and stressful to them. The left side shows the stress level of the item and the right side gives supports to use. We have shared some strategies for teaching social competence. And, we'll now talk about some ideas for relationships.
In webinar 2, we discussed play and friendships. In this webinar, we have talked about how to increase social competence. Now we'd like to talk about some keys to relationships of individuals with autism and their parents and their siblings, as well as touch on some dating and romantic relationships.
Parents want to have positive relationships with their children. Nurturing relationships with children is challenging in any situation, but may be even more so when the child has autism. What can you do to help as a parent and what support can educators offer parents? First, it is important to remember that all children will develop on their own timeline. There are areas in a child with autism that you may need to watch for small steps of progress. Break down difficult tasks and skills into smaller steps and see each accomplishment as success. Thinking about the future can be overwhelming at times, but it is a necessary undertaking. Just remember to live in the moments of the present and enjoy the good things that are happening now. Some of those future thoughts may involve what stage your young person will enter next, such as preschool to school age or high school to adulthood. Learning about these times of transition, even years before you get there, can help you and your child move through these stages with a positive relationship. One other idea is to become familiar with adults on the spectrum. Reading books, checking out sites on the internet, and getting to know adults on the spectrum who live in your community can help gain perspective about your child and can help you maintain a favorable relationship.
Here's a few more ideas. Encourage your child to dream and help him or her focus on their immediate goals and help them build skills to achieve their dreams one step at a time. Some people don't feel strongly about anything, much less find tremendous joy and satisfaction in their lives. However, children and individuals with ASD often have the gift of knowing exactly what drives them--their special interests. Many children with ASD have special interests that they are extremely interested and passionate about it. Find out what their passions are, then share and experience it with them. It is also important to find your funny bone and remember to laugh. Laughter can help some of the most terrible or serious situations seem slightly more bearable. And last but not least, remember to live in that moment, which may sound nearly impossible when you're always keeping an eye out for a potential problem or planning for long-term goals. However, you have to try to enjoy the moments as they happen and don't let yourself miss what is happening in the present time.
Here are some great activities parents and children can enjoy together helping everyone feel more in touch with one another. These are ways to teach that are fun based! So, you can teach compliments through a game, social skills from the TV or through role play, manners from reading and videos, or just have fun looking up music or making a favorite recipe.
Let's start with some positive information about siblings. This research on sibling relationships demonstrates the positive aspects of relationships between siblings of children with ASD. Siblings of children with ASD spend a great deal of time together with their brother or sister. In one study, siblings between the ages of 2 and 12 spent an average of 40 minutes out of every hour together when observed at home. Another study shows that siblings between the ages of 8 and 18 of children with autism reported greater admiration of and less competition and conflict with their brother or sister than siblings of typical developing children.
This research shows the positive feelings and compassion that siblings have for their brother or sister. It also shows that siblings most often engage in such activities as playing together, watching television and spending time outside.
How can we reinforce sibling relationships? Try including the special interest of your child with ASD to motivate involvement and interest. There are many books available for siblings of children with autism that help them understand ASD and how they can be the best sibling they can be and how to deal with all the good and difficult feelings they may have. Using the visual supports we have discussed today when working on your children playing together and doing activities will be helpful and reduce the anxiety levels of everyone. Remember to teach how to use a "Schedule Change" card and an "I need a break" card for all siblings. That way, if something needs to be changed in the schedule you have a way to introduce the change, or if someone is feeling stressed they can take a couple of minutes to regulate and then rejoin the activity. Allowing all the children or young people to pursue what they enjoy and what makes them happy is also important. Acknowledging that everyone will have negative feelings about their life situations at times is a perspective that will help siblings of individuals with autism to talk about those feelings and work through them by talking with their parents, a trusted family member, a good friend, or sometimes maybe even a counselor. As a parent, these tips may help your home life run a little smoother. And as an educator, you may be able to share these tips with families.
Here are some really fun and active ideas for siblings to help them create and continue to grow a supportive relationship. Look for activities that are motivating and will keep the individual with ASD involved. All kinds of games, acting, crafts, TV or videos, and music can increase that bond between siblings.
These are a few more happenings that can help develop positive feelings and support among siblings. Physical activities, drawing or cartooning, and taking pictures to use in a scrapbook or on a computer slide show can allow siblings to share high interest activities.
This last area we're going to cover is dating and romantic relationships. We'll just touch on a few points as an introduction to this very complicated topic.
Dating and romantic relationships can be very complicated and confusing for all people. For those with ASD, the challenges of communication and social competence make this a very intense process. Some individuals with ASD may experience misunderstandings due to the differences in emotional responses, communication problems and social issues. Some individuals may not seek the same depth and frequency of expressions of love and affection or they may not realize that an expression of affection is even expected in certain situations. Individuals with ASD may also be immature in their expressions of affection or may perceive acts of affection as aversive experiences. For example, a hug may be perceived as an uncomfortable squeeze that restricts and prevents movement and therefore may not be desired by some individuals with ASD. There are many books about this topic, some written by individuals with autism, that can give explicit advice, but the next slide shares a few ideas.
Using a shared interest or activity to get to know someone takes some of the pressure off of having to strictly interact socially; so if you love to read, meeting together at a book club is easier than going out to dinner. Finding groups or clubs who have special interests can allow you to have more than 2 people to help carry on the social interactions. Those on the spectrum need to learn about how to interact and read subtle signs from books, television shows, the Internet, and other people. Knowing that relationships are difficult for everyone and that a relationship takes a long time can help take some of the pressure off. Understanding what a person's own intimacy level is, due to experiences, sensory issues, and understanding the consequences, is very important. Find others you trust and can discuss these issues with as they appear in a relationship. Know that everyone experiences rejection, sometimes early in a relationship, sometimes later, but it happens. Learn to work through it, know that it was parts of each person that lent to the failure, and then try again. Parents, teachers of adolescents, and those who work with adults on the spectrum need to know how to support the individual through these normal, amazing, and challenging experiences using the many available resources.
"All relationships, from playing when we are young, through middle school and adolescence as we build relationships, into the world of dating and romance, and with our families throughout life, will have wonderful times and difficult times. Keep talking, teaching, sharing, and using tools that help make sense of social interactions at all ages and with many people." We hope you have enjoyed the Social Competence Webinar Series. All four webinars will be available at www.ocali.org at Archived Webinars. There are also 2 Autism Internet Modules that focus on social competence information. One is called Overview of Social Skills Functioning and Programming and one is on Social Narratives.
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Slides 46 & 47
What can you do to support individuals who struggle with social situations and interactions? This segment shares strategies to help build social competence including identifying when things go wrong and how to approach the situation differently next time. There is particular focus on relationship building with families, siblings, and potential romantic relationships.