Social Skills Interventions

One of the main characteristics of individuals with ASD is severe impairment in social interactions. Lack of appropriate social skills hinders development of social relationships across all ages and all settings making this area one of the most important when discussing interventions for individuals with ASD. Various interventions have proven effective in helping individual with ASD acquire and increase their social skills. Interventions developed have consisted of specific strategies that target social skills at any age or grade level, and specific curricula that sequentially teach a skill from beginning to end. This section will highlight both types of social skills interventions.

Social Storiesâ„¢

"A Social Storyâ„¢ 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 Storyâ„¢ is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience. Half of all Social Storiesâ„¢ developed should affirm something that an individual does well. Although the goal of a Storyâ„¢ 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 Gray Center, http://www.thegraycenter.org/socialstorywhat.cfm, 2006).

References

Gray, C. (2000). The new social story book. London: Future Horizons.

Gray, C. (2002). My social stories book. Arlington, TX: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Comic Strip Conversationsâ„¢

Comic strip conversationsâ„¢ use simple drawings to systematically identify what people say and do, with an emphasis on what people may be thinking. This is particularly helpful for individuals on the autism spectrum who often have difficulty understanding others' point of view. Comic strip conversations are based on the belief that visualization and visual supports, found useful in structuring learning for students with autism and related disorders, may also improve their understanding and comprehension of conversation.

Reference

Gray, C. (1994). Comic strip conversations. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.

The Power Card Strategy

The Power Card strategy shows parents and educators how to capitalize on the special interests that characterize children and youth with Asperger Syndrome to change an unwanted or inappropriate behavior. Motivational text related to a special interest or a highly admired person is combined with an illustration and made into a bookmark- or business card-sized Power Card that the youth can refer to whenever necessary. For younger children the special interest or hero is worked into a brief story.

Reference

Gagnon, E. (2001). Power cards: Using special interests to motivate children and youth with Asperger Syndrome and autism. Shawnee, Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Integrated Play Groups

Integrated Play Groups are designed to support children of diverse ages and abilities on the autism spectrum (novice players) in mutually enjoyed play experiences with typical peers and siblings (expert players). Small groups of children regularly play together under the guidance of an adult facilitator (play guide) using a carefully tailored system of support. The emphasis is on maximizing children's developmental potential as well as intrinsic desire to play, socialize and form meaningful relationships with peers. At the same time, an equally important focus is on teaching the peer group to be more accepting, responsive, and inclusive of children who relate and play in different ways.

Reference

Wolfberg, P. (2003). Peer play and the autism spectrum: The art of guiding children's socialization and imagination. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

The Hidden Curriculum

The hidden curriculum is the set of rules governing day-to-day interactions that everyone is assumed to know but that are rarely directly taught. Although most people already know about the hidden curriculum rules, they are challenging for individuals with ASD because they do not learn social skills and related items incidentally. This book offers practical suggestions and advice for how to teach and learn those subtle messages that most people seem to pick up almost automatically but that have to be directly taught to individuals with social-cognitive challenges.

Reference

Myles, B., Trautman, M., & Schelvan, R. (2004). The hidden curriculum. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Social Skills Curricula

Several social skills curricula based on best practices have been developed. These include: (a) Building Social Relationship by S. Bellini, (b) Super Skills by J. Coucouvanis, and (c) Social Skills in Our Schools by M. Dunn.

Building Social Relationships (Bellini, 2006)

This book presents a comprehensive five-step model for implementing social programming for children and adolescents with ASD. The model incorporates the following five steps: assess social functioning, distinguish between skill acquisition and performance deficits, select intervention strategies, implement intervention, and evaluate and monitor progress. The model also shows how to organize and make sense of the myriad of social skills strategies and resources currently available to parents and professionals. It is not meant to replace other resources or strategies, but synthesize them into one comprehensive program.

Reference

Bellini, S. (2006). Building social relationships: A systematic approach to teaching social interaction skills to children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and other social difficulties. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Super Skills (Coucouvanis, 2005)

This program includes 30 lessons grouped under four types of skills necessary for social success: fundamental skills, social initiation skills, getting along with others, and social response skills. Each lesson is highly structured and organized, making it easy for even inexperienced teachers and others to follow and implement successfully. A series of practical checklists and other instruments provide a solid foundation for assessing students' social skills levels and subsequent planning.

Reference

Coucouvanis, J. (2005). Super Skills: A social skills group program for children with Asperger Syndrome, high-functioning autism and related challenges. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Social Skills in Our Schools (SOS) (Dunn, 2005)

This comprehensive social skills curriculum has the dual purpose of developing appropriate social skills in children with pervasive developmental disorders while at the same time fostering understanding and tolerance among typical peers and school staff.

Reference

Dunn, M. (2005). S.O.S.—Social skills in our schools: A social skills program for children with pervasive developmental disorders, including high-functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome, and their typical peers. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.