Social Skills Education for Children on the Autism Spectrum: Tips for Parents and Teachers

"I understand that social skills must be taught to children on the autism spectrum, but how can parents actually do this outside of a formal skills training course? Thanks in advance for your response!"

The process of teaching social skills to children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) involves a six-step plan:
  1. assessment of existing skills
  2. defining what skills will be taught (i.e., setting goals and objectives)
  3. planning how the skills will be taught (i.e., teaching strategies)
  4. implementing the teaching plan
  5. assessing child progress
  6. adapting the teaching strategy so that the child acquires the target skill

Most social skills programs for kids with Aspergers and HFA fall into one of two theoretical frameworks: (1) behavioral and (2) developmental.

1. In a behavioral approach, the youngster’s behavior is evaluated according to (a) the presence of dysfunctional behavior (e.g., presence of abnormal behaviors, abnormal frequency of certain behaviors) and (b) behavioral deficits (e.g., absence or low frequency of typical skills). Behavioral teaching strategies are then designed to increase the youngster’s performance of deficit skills and decrease dysfunctional behavior. These strategies involve:
  • identifying the target of teaching
  • determining the appropriate antecedent and consequence for the target behavior
  • using systematic instruction and assessment to teach the target behavior
  • assess child progress

CLICK HERE  for an example of a Behavioral Intervention Plan.



2. The developmental approach involves assessing each developmental area (e.g., motor, cognition, communication, social development, etc.) and using the youngster’s successes, emerging skills, and failures to determine his or her area of development. This area indicates the set of skills that the youngster appears to be ready to learn next, based on his or her assessed performance. Those skills are then targeted for teaching.

Goals for specific social skills identified in interactions with adults may focus on early prelinguistic behaviors (e.g., joint attention, turn taking, imitation, responding by gaze to adult initiations, initiating social interactions with adults, etc.). These interactions occur within a play context, so establishing and supporting “toy play” with an grown-up may be a goal for kids on the autism spectrum.





As these young people grow older, interactions with adults may more often occur in classroom contexts. Although such classroom-based interactions may also occur in a play context, the nature of adult-child interactions will extend to behaviors necessary for functioning independently in the classroom. Social skills (e.g., responding to teacher directions, independently participating in the routines of the classroom, expressing needs to teachers, requesting assistance of the teacher, etc.) all become important functional skills necessary for Aspergers and HFA kids to be successful in classroom settings.

Since communication is the process by which individuals carry out social relationships, the special needs child’s communication skills are a big part of social development. Developing social goals and objectives needs to be conducted alongside developing communication goals and objectives. Therefore, assessing communication skills and needs, and making sure that teaching strategies for communication are integrated with social teaching strategies, are critical for developing skills that are functional for the youngster.

Play, like communication, is an important social activity in childhood. Play skills, like communication, must be assessed and considered within the social context. Development of more mature play skills in both independent play and social play is important for the social development and peer-interaction of kids with the disorder, since play is the glue that holds together peer-interactions in childhood.

Assessing an Aspergers or HFA youngster’s actual behaviors toward other kids (e.g., initiations, responses, interest in others, level of social play, etc.) provides an important baseline against which to measure the degree to which interventions are having valid effects. This assessment, when paired with information about priorities, parents’ concerns, skills needed to be successful in the current educational settings, and skills needed to be successful in the next educational setting, can serve as a basis for selecting functional social outcomes that parents and teachers can select for young people on the spectrum.




==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book


==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism
 

COMMENTS: 

Mark, This is another of your excellent works!  Keep up the good work... there's nothing out there like yours!

Hi Mark, I bought your ebook on aspies and relationships. It is good. I have only read some of it, but of all the asperger relationship books I've read, yours is definitely the best. 

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