Social Skills

Kids PlayingIndividuals on the autism spectrum, by definition, exhibit challenges in both understanding and participating in meaningful social interaction. Impairments in social functioning include: initiating and responding to social interaction, engaging in joint attention and sharing enjoyment with others, understanding and demonstrating non-verbal social communication i.e. the "unwritten rules" of social interactions. These difficulties are often compounded by the communication deficits seen in students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Students with ASD also have difficulty in an area termed Theory of Mind, defined by Uta Frith (1989) as "the ability to predict relationships between external states of affairs and internal states of mind". This results in difficulty making inferences about another person's state of mind (their beliefs, intentions, emotions, imagination) and to interact based on those inferences. This is often referred to as "mindblindness". The emergence of some level of awareness of mental states occurs typically at age 3-4. Children with autism lack the early foundations of social cognition and awareness, which in turn impacts social communication, social play, and imagination.

It may seem that students with ASD lack interest in social interaction. In fact, our students do want to have social contact and interaction but lack the skills due in part to the impairments just discussed. Some students may actively seek interaction but in ways considered unusual or inappropriate by others. Therefore, our students need a carefully planned and individualized social skills program. Specific teaching strategies and interventions are chosen based on the individual profile and observed social needs of the student. There are many well-documented intervention strategies from which to choose. These videos will offer brief examples selected from a wide range of social interventions.