Social Skills Intervention: Bringing it all Together
The prevalence of Asperger Syndrome (AS) and other autism spectrum disorders has been on the rise. To support individuals with AS, it is crucial that families and professionals understand one of the key aspects of this complex disorder—social impairments. Gresham and Elliot (1984) describe social skills as “socially acceptable learned behaviors that enable a person to interact effectively with others and avoid socially unacceptable responses.” It is important to recognize that the word “learned” means that social skills can indeed be taught.
Problems with Perspective
Children with AS have a difficult time understanding the social behavior of others, in part due to their limited perspective-taking abilities (Winner, 2002). A child’s limited perspective-taking ability can manifest in a variety of ways. For example, children may have a challenging time thinking about another person’s ideas or feelings. They may have difficulty recognizing and understanding their own emotions as well. In addition, they struggle to understand trickery and deception, and often fail to recognize false beliefs. They also have difficulty planning their own behavior in response to their environment. Remember, autism is a spectrum disorder, and each child’s individual social needs must be recognized so that appropriate and effective interventions can be provided.
Components of a Social Skills Program
In order to teach social skills to a child with AS, parents and professionals must determine the best course of action. There are a number of social skills programs now available for purchase. In fact, it is the growing number of social skill programs that makes remediation somewhat confusing and disjointed. The components of an inclusive social skills program should include the following:
- A structured and systematic “rule” system applied to abstract and unstructured social scenarios
- Personalized stories that address the individual deficits and needs of each child
- Motivating and fun activities that children can “buy” into
- Perspective-taking components that are identified and discussed
- Visual aids and transition supports
- A detailed look at emotions and empathy to help interpret the confusion associated with non-verbal interactions
- Opportunities to practice skills with typical peers
- Parent involvement to aid in generalization
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.
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