Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


Social Scripts: Social Skills Development for Children Who Are Socially Different

“Socially different” describes children who may not use appropriate eye contact, may not know how to open or close a conversation, may be isolated from their classmates for a variety of reasons, may have trouble with self-control, don’t seem to fit in with others in the classroom (which is easily identifiable by the other classmates), or are unable to maintain social acceptance. Such social skills deficits often characterize children on the autism spectrum. An important method for overcoming these deficits involves the use of Social Scripts.

Social Scripts are a social narrative that provides direct instruction of social situations for young people with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). The scripts are written by the youngster’s parent or teacher (sometimes with the help of the youngster), providing a visual cue and desired social responses. The content of the script should match the youngster’s needs and take his or her perspective into consideration.

Social Scripts can reduce the stress associated with social interactions and assist the AS or HFA youngster with understanding the perspective of others. Slang or child-specific terms in the script can help the conversational exchange appear more natural. Scripts can be used to help a youngster deal with uncertainty, introduce change in routine, teach various routines, or address a wide variety of impeding behaviors (e.g., aggression, fear, obsessions, etc.). Other examples of ideas for scripts include:
  • Being assertive without being pushy
  • Compromising and negotiating
  • Conversation starters
  • Dealing with failure or being left out
  • Dealing with peer pressure
  • Disagreeing with others
  • Giving and responding to criticism
  • Learning to participate appropriately in groups
  • Respecting someone’s personal space
  • Responses and ideas to connect conversations or change the topic
  • Settling conflicts
  • Taking charge of one’s feelings
  • Thinking about one’s behavior before, during, and after speaking
  • Using appropriate eye contact, voice, tone, expression, and posture

Here is an example of a Social Script written for Michael, a sixth-grader with Asperger’s, for purchasing a fountain Coke at the corner gas station (which he was allowed to do several times a week):

When I go to the gas station for some pop, I will stand in line at the pop machine until the people in front of me are done getting their drinks. Then I will get my drink and go to the cashier. The cashier will say something like, “Hi, is that all for today?” I will say, “Yes.” If she asks me if I want anything else, I will say “No.” I will then hand her $2.00 and will be given some change. Then I will say, “Thank you.” 

Daily observations and reports from others who interact with the AS or HFA child can help determine the skills that need to be practiced. Basic social skills are a good place to start. For example, respecting personal space, greeting someone, making eye contact, using active listening, and starting/ending a conversation should be part of every scripting lesson. Skills should be applicable to the child’s needs, daily experiences, and interests in order to help maintain his motivation. Blending humor into the scripts or using silly names for the characters can help maintain motivation as well. In addition, scripts need to match the child’s life experiences at home, at school, and in his community.

Social Scripts can be used in groups as well (e.g., special education class). Once the “special needs” children are comfortable with practicing the scripts, short field trips can provide opportunities to practice and enhance newly learned skills. Peer-assistance is often helpful to the social skills class or target group. Due to the fact that socially challenged kids tend to associate with other socially challenged kids, peer-assistance is highly beneficial because the assistant can model social situations appropriately and help children with social skills deficits acquaint themselves with people outside their usual circle of peers/friends.

Social Scripts may not be appropriate in all situations, because there is a risk of making the AS or HFA child sound too “rehearsed” or “scripted” in her response. Since children on the autism spectrum struggle with generalization of skills, they may try to use one particular script at the wrong time. For example, Michael learned how to purchase his fountain Coke at the gas station through scripted communication. However, when he ordered a Coke at a fast food restaurant, he became agitated when asked additional questions about the order, such as “Do you want a meal with that?” and “Do you want a regular Coke – or diet?”

When parents and teachers utilize Social Scripts, these prompts should be systematically faded out fairly quickly. Otherwise, the AS or HFA child may continue to spontaneously communicate with friends and classmates using scripted phrases. Visual prompts (click on the picture at the top of this article for an example) have the potential to be more effective than verbal prompts given by a parent or teacher because they are much easier to fade out.

Using Social Scripts as a prompting procedure to teach kids on the spectrum to engage in more complex play, initiate and maintain conversations with others, and participate in a variety of community activities can be effective in the short and long term. The key to using scripts is to fade them out so the child does not become dependent on the prompt.


Dominique Denardo said...

I 'm so overwhelmed by all the things my son needs to learn!

Michele Byrne said...

If it's any consolation I feel exactly the same!!

Full Spectrum Mama said...

My son does fantastically with social scripts in learning-social-scripts environment, but the minute he's in the chaotic "real world" most of that learning goes right out the window.

Unknown said...

It sounds all good to try but in reality my child wouldn't focus long enough to remember what to do if any outside factors play in I.e. noise, other people,too much movement, etc. It sounds like something to try at home that might help in small situations where in a controlled environment but outside there are just too many unseen factors that can cause overwhelming with a negative response.

AS mom said...

Yeah... that map at top is wishful thinking. My child is more like flip a coin either way. Add outside factors even worse. Good theory and maybe work to an extent in a controlled environment but outside that, I can't see much long term progress. We've been doing these same things for few years now. Again other factors can change results including simple things like if child is even tired or just a rough day. That's why they are our little warriors and geniuses! To be able to deal with all they do. My child IS my hero

AS mom said...

Me too! I feel like I'm losing my mind at times just trying to make my child life easier. All I know to do is keep trying and try to be patient , calm, and strong. Moms were definitely made tougher for a reason! Add other kids too, it's just pure chaos or eggshells to try to keep my AS child from an episode.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

Click here to read the full article…

Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

Click here to read the full article...

Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

Click here to read the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content