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

"How can I teach my daughter (high functioning) to relate better to her classmates and not be so offensive. She's having difficulty gaining acceptance from her peers."

“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

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

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.

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

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.


The Power Card Strategy: Behavior Management and Social Skills Development for Children on the Autism Spectrum

"Have you heard of the power card method that is supposed to help children on the spectrum with social skills and behavior problems? Is it effective? How does it work?"

The Power Card Strategy is an effective way to teach behavior management and social skills to young children with Asperger's (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA).

It is effective because it takes into account the unique characteristics of these "special needs" youth. Kids on the autism spectrum tend to have highly developed special interests, so this strategy capitalizes on those interests as a motivational force toward positive behavioral changes.

The Power Card Strategy involves visual aids that incorporates the youngster's special interest to teach appropriate social skills, including behavioral expectations, routines, the meaning of language, and the “hidden curriculum” (refers to the set of routines, social rules, tasks, or actions that kids readily understand and use; often considered to be a matter of common sense, the hidden curriculum is almost never directly taught, yet it is a salient part of everyday life).

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

In addition, the strategy can be used to aide in generalization, to clarify choices, to teach another’s perspective, and to teach cause-and-effect between a specific behavior and its consequence.

The strategy consists of two basic parts:
  1. a brief scenario or character sketch describing how a hero solves a problem, and
  2. the "power card" which recaps how the youngster can use the same strategy to solve a similar problem.



In part one, a brief script of the special interest and the situation being addressed for the AS or HFA child is created. The script is written at the child’s comprehension level and includes relevant pictures or graphics. Initially, the script is read on a scheduled basis as the child learns to use the power card. In part two, the actual power card is created.

It is the size of a trading card and includes a small picture of the special interest and the solution to the problem situation broken into three to five steps. The card is created from the script and is carried by the child.

Below is an example of the use of the Power Card Strategy written for Michael, a 5-year-old boy with Asperger's who tends to act-out aggressively when he loses a game. This behavior was demonstrated in a variety of situations both at home and school. The following scenario was created featuring Teen Titans Go (Michael’s special interest) with the three steps to success on the reverse side of the picture:

The Teen Titans love to play games. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t. When they win, it makes them feel very happy. They smile, give each other a high five, and say "Hooray!" But, sometimes they lose games. When they lose, they may not feel very happy. But, they take a deep breath and say "good job" to their friends. The Teen Titans want everyone to have fun while playing games, whether they win or lose. The most important thing is to have fun. They want you to remember these three things when playing games the Teen Titan way:
  1. Games should be fun for all kids.
  2. If you win a game, you can smile, give a high five, or say, "Hooray!"
  3. If you lose a game, you can take a deep breath and say "good job" to your friends.

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

Below is another example of the Power Card Strategy borrowed from Elisa Gagnon of the Autism Society. It was written for a fourth-grade girl with Asperger’s who was struggling to pay attention in class. The power card in this scenario utilized a small picture of Hannah Montana with the three steps to success on the reverse side of the picture:

Hannah Montana loves being in concert and also loves being on the set of her TV show. She still, however, has to go to school. Sometimes it is hard for her to pay attention to her teachers when she is in class. As Miley Cyrus she is sometimes tempted to daydream about her other life as Hannah Montana. She has learned, however, that listening to her teachers and doing her school work is as important as singing, dancing and acting. She has learned that she needs to pay attention in class and do her work, so that she has time to do what she loves to do. Just like Hannah Montana, it is important to pay attention in class. This would make Hannah Montana proud. Hannah would like all girls who love her to remember these three things.
  1. Listen to your teacher when she is talking. Be ready to answer any questions that she might ask.
  2. Do your school assignments and stay on task until the assignment is completed.
  3. Always ask for help when needed.



In summary, when parents or teachers utilize the Power Card Strategy, they will need to (a) identify the unique or special interest of the AS or HFA child, (b) write a scenario describing how a hero solves the problem in question, and (c) create a power card to generalize the expected skill.

The strategy is a strength-based intervention to promote social skills by capitalizing on the child’s special interests. Although preliminary studies have shown that the strategy is a promising approach to teaching social skills, additional research is needed. 

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

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

==> 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

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD 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 Children on the Spectrum

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 or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your 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 Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the 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…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD 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 ASD 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…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content