Challenges with social communication are a core feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For example, people with ASD may experience difficulty making eye contact, interpreting non-verbal cues, initiating interactions, engaging in back-and-forth conversation, and understanding what others are thinking or feeling. These difficulties can inhibit the ability to form relationships with peers, which can contribute to feelings of isolation and related mood concerns (e.g., depression, anxiety). Moreover, a lack of appropriate social skills can contribute to an increased susceptibility to bullying. Compared to neurotypical people, people with ASD may need to be explicitly taught social skills. Therefore, social skills training is a helpful intervention.
Social skills training is one evidence-based method for helping people with ASD better understand and engage in appropriate social interactions. Studies also indicate that developing appropriate social skills can increase appropriate peer interactions, increase academic performance, and reduce externalizing behaviors.
What Does Social Skills Training Look Like?
Social skills training can occur in a number of formats. For example, social skills training includes:
- Social skills groups: opportunity for people with ASD to practice social skills with others who also have ASD
- Peer-mediated instruction and interventions: children without ASD are trained to be “peer mentors” and work with children with ASD to facilitate social and play interactions
- Social stories and scripts: written or visual materials are used to describe a particular social concept
- Video modeling: an individual watches a video demonstration of a social behavior and attempts to execute that same behavior
Examples of skills targeted in social skills programs include:
- Initiating conversations
- Appropriate eye contact
- Understanding emotions and facial expressions
- Gestures and body language
- Initiating and maintaining friendships
Benefits of Social Skills Training
Research indicates that social skills training is beneficial for children through young adults. Children and adolescents who participated in social skills training exhibited increased social awareness, social motivation, and social communication skills. Among young adults, social skills training has been associated with increased cooperative social behavior, social assertiveness, social responsiveness, self-control, and empathy. Overall, social skills are important for developing relationships and making friends. Social skills are also helpful for academic and job performance.
Social communication challenges are a core feature of ASD. These challenges can inhibit people’s ability to form relationships and contribute to feelings of isolation and related mood concerns. Compared to neurotypical people, people with ASD may need to be explicitly taught social skills. Social skills training is one evidence-based method for helping people with ASD engage in more appropriate social interactions. Social skills training can occur in different formats and targets skills such as initiating friendships, perspective-taking, and more. According to research, social skills training is beneficial for children through young adults and improves a range of outcomes (e.g., social responsiveness, empathy, social motivation).
Upside Therapy has social skills groups for middle school students, high school students, and young adults (ages 18 to 29 years) with ASD. If you are interested in services, please call 972-519-1692 or email email@example.com.
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