How Social Skills Classes Help Treat ASD

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When a child or adult has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), social settings can present a bit of a challenge. Knowing how to act in social situations is something that is more of a struggle for a person with ASD than it is for others. This is why social skills training is essential. It isn't that a person with ASD doesn't want to interact with others, they simply function a bit differently, and don't always know which behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate in certain social situations. It is also easy to become overwhelmed in social situations when being on the autism spectrum. Taking social skills courses helps those with ASD to learn to build friendships, become involved in the community, and increase an overall level of happiness in life. 

Social skills are oftentimes learned as kids and help us to create a social map for regulating our behaviors. When a person has ASD, this map isn't learned so easily. A bit of extra support is oftentimes needed to help those with ASD learn to:

  • Focus attention

  • Learn about timing 

  • Enhance communication skills

  • Learn behaviors that support desired social outcomes

  • Increase sensory integration

  • Enhance language skills

  • Improve cognitive skills

  • Behave appropriately in public or social settings

Since there are so many social skills to be taught, an integrative approach works best—teaching these skills in a variety of settings such as in school, at home, and out in the community. Teaching in such environments provides interventionists with opportunities for teaching, and allowing the student to practice in real-life settings that can be carried over into a variety of social situations and environments. A social skills course may involve interactions with both the teacher as well as with peers. Professionals who are able to teach these skills include special education teachers, clinicians, and speech pathologists. These skills may also be reinforced by occupational or behavioral therapists, school psychologists, teachers at school, and direct care personnel.

These courses may be conducted on a one-on-one basis, or in a group. Group settings are wonderful opportunities for those with ASD to practice interacting with others, and often follow a set criteria which includes:

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  • Predictability

  • Structure

  • Grouping students by language skills

  • Working with other students

  • A variety of lessons and opportunities for learning

  • Self-esteem development

  • Promoting self-awareness

Some of the best tools for promoting social skills include personalized teaching stories that include visuals and templates that parents may take home to help reinforce the lessons. Such lessons have been developed by Autism Speaks, the READI Lab at University of Washington, and Microsoft Office. These lessons include:

  • Going to a restaurant

  • Playing with peers

  • Dealing with bullying

  • Using the restroom

  • Going to a store

  • Taking turns with others

If you have a child or loved one with ASD, and you would like some support with social skills training, we urge you to contact us for more information, and to be placed on our waiting list. Big Sky Therapeutic Services provides a variety of training courses and interventions to help strengthen family bonds and shape behaviors for those who are on the autism spectrum in Montana. We would love to hear from you and help your loved one and family adjust. 

Jayna Nickert