Teaching social skills to children with autism

For the majority of children with autism direct teaching of social skills is necessary. Unlike their typically developing peers children with autism do not naturally acquire social skills from people watching or the environment. For many autistic children the ability to understand and read subtle cues, facial expressions, verbal and nonverbal communication and people’s body language is missing, which makes interpreting meaning challenging.

Teaching social skills to children with autism can take many forms from PECS and visual flash cards to ABA and social skills stories.

For many parents of autistic children choosing a school is difficult. To attend mainstream education children with autism or asperger syndrome will need a certain amount of social skills. Inclusion in a mainstream school is often not dependent solely on the child’s IQ or intelligence. Many children with autism or asperger syndrome are capable of working at the required level, but are not being accepted into mainstream education due to behavioral issues or poorly developed social skills.

Teaching social skills to children with autism is not easy, for many autistic children understanding instruction is difficult. However there are certain treatments of autism which can help overcome this hurdle.

Generally children on the spectrum are visual thinkers and learners, meaning they will comprehend information or instruction easier if it is given visually, for example images or pictures etc. rather than written or spoken instruction.

Therefore teaching social skills to children on the spectrum can be achieved far easier using visual tools and methods such as visual flash cards and social skills stories, both of which are visual and are proven successful methods.

A good social story will focus on a particular social situation or interaction. Some examples of social stories would be assembly, sharing, taking turns, not shouting out, recess etc. These are all good examples of social stories. The social story serves a number of purposes. The most important aspect being that the social story provides the child on the spectrum with a role model, something to follow visually.

Social stories address the “wh” question (who, where, why, when and what) as well as give an insight into the thinking, emotions and actions of others. It will also explain the actions and reactions expected of the child on the spectrum. Social stories are generally written following a specific pattern and normally by experts although some parents have learnt how to write social stories themselves.

Not all social skills stories are perfect. It may well be that a particular social story does not have exactly the desired effect or address all the necessary elements of a situation. Be prepared to occasionally rewrite a social story to make it more effective.

To find out more about social stories and how they can be implemented for teaching social skills to children with autism visit any of the following sites:

http://www.autismsocialstories.com

http://www.autismsocialstories.com/school