Social Skills in Autism
The Mystery of Autism
Social skills are a very important part of the whole mystery of Autism. There are several reasons as to why this is one of the biggest problems concerning clients with ASD. The way they learn to interact with the rest of the world is paramount in the success they will have in being able to live their lives away from school and parents in the future. They have to be able to decipher things that we “normal” people take for granted. Being able to read their fellow man's facial expressions and body language goes an extremely long way in making life easier. In addition to knowing how to read others verbal and unspoken signs given off during the course of interacting socially, it is important for the person with ASD to be able to reciprocate these actions appropriately. Reciprocation is the back and forth flow of social interaction (Trambel 2012). It also refers to how the behavior of one person influences and is influenced by another and vice versa.
Through study, it has been determined that there are 3 main ways to teach social skills to those with ASD. Children can be taught through adult instruction, peer involvement and through their own merit. There are some good and some bad aspects to each of these methods. The adult interaction can be good because the adult acts like a mediator and a reinforcer of desirable behavior. The downfall to this is that the child tends to get attached to the adult being there and still lacks the skills required to interact without the adult being in the scenario. The ASD child can also learn through peer interaction. This is one of the more useful methods because it places the child in real life situations of play with regular children and they get a chance to practice interacting without an adult around to help moderate their behavior and give them accolades for doing things correct. The drawback to the peer mediated procedure is that even though it did increase the interaction between an ASD student, it did not increase the likelihood of the ASD student actually initiating the interactions. The ideal strategy is for the student to student to draw from their own experience internally to react to social situations.
As a reader and a person new to this field of Special Education and ASD, I found this article very insightful. Up to now, I have been more inclined from previous readings to be of the opinion that teaching these social skills heavily relies on the teachers and parents. It is presented in a logical fashion in this piece that there needs to be a mixture of parents and teachers and peer interaction. The parent and teacher interaction is where the child gets a more strict and regimented instruction that often times includes positive reinforcement. The peer interaction allows the child to practice the skills taught via adult mediation. As a prospective educator, I will definitely keep in mind that while I may want to shield a child with ASD from harm, I must remember that it is to their benefit that I allow them to have interaction with their peers without my intervention in order to reach the ultimate goal of having the student rely on their own internal intervention in situations.
Advances in Autism Treatment
In the article Social-Skills Treatments for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders, it talks about how there have been advancements in the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorders (ADSs) has occurred in the past few decades, primarily using applied behavior analysis. Reviews of trends in social skills treatment for children with ASDs have been limited, despite a robust and growing empirical literature on the topic. It says that Modeling and reinforcement treatments have been the most popular model from the outset, with most studies conducted in school settings by teachers or psychologists. But, large-scale group studies and comparisons of different training strategies are almost nonexistent.
In this article, it states that it has been suggested that social impairments are the most critical element in the definition of the disorder. It has been argued that social excesses and deficits may have some level of independence from other symptom domains of ASDs. The assumptions may argue for treatments that are specific to social skills playing a central role of intervention for children with ASDs. This part of the article is defiantly something that everybody needs to take a look at and read. When dealing with a child or adolescent with ASDs, you have to understand social interactions are something they struggle with is going to be social impairments. In this article, it also states that among the typically observed social behaviors present in this neurodevelopmental disorder are poor eye contact, failure to initiate social interaction, and the presence of odd mannerisms and speech.
As teachers and parents both who are dealing with students and adolescents with ASDs, you need to understand that they will have trouble with social interactions. One thing parents and teachers can both do is work with students on their social interactions and how and what they are supposed to do in public. Once someone can grasp the correct way to act in public, it will help with everything else and it shows students and adolescents the way to live their lives.
Social Groups for Social Skills
The article, Social skills training for adolescents with asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism discusses the ideas of Kanner, Rodriquez, Ashenden, Schopler and Mesibov as cited in (Tse, J., Strulovitch, J., Tagalakis, V., Meng, L., & Fombonne, E., 2007) that adolescents with Aspergers Syndrome (AS) and High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HFASD) develop a decreased interest in engaging with the peers and forming relationships. These students begin to realize that they are different from other students regarding their ability to initiate and respond to social interactions and creating and maintaining friendships. This can have a negative impact and result in depression and anxiety (Tse, J. et al., 2007). Howlin, Krasny, Williams, Provencal and Ozonoff realized, as cited in (Tse, J. et al., 2007) this issue can follow them as they transition from high school through their career path.
The article, Social skills training for adolescents with asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism supports the theory that adolescents with AS and HFASD truly do not have an understanding of how to communicate and interact with their peers. They have difficulty with making eye contact with others, starting conversations, responding and expressing their feelings (Tse, J. et al., 2007). These adolescents also struggle with understanding the behaviors and interests of their peers. Due to the increasing amount of people diagnosed with AS and HFASD it is important to find ways to help these students so that they can enjoy friendships and be prepared for life once school has ended. The article, discusses a study that was done to determine if peer groups would help these adolescents. The groups met once a week for 3 months. They were made up of an average of 8 participants and were administered by a mental health professional. The group would learn a new social skill every week, reflect on previous skills learned, role play, have time to interact on their own and play games to encourage socialization. The peer groups were effective and both the participants and their parents noted improvement in their social skills (Tse, J. et al., 2007).
I believe that our students with AS and HFASD would benefit from a peer group as described above. We have several social workers and a school psychologist that could run the group. In order to create student and parent interest we should compose a newsletter with the details of the group and the social benefits it will provide for our students. The group will meet every Tuesday after school for one hour, so that they can use our late buses to get home. We will provide a snack for the members. It would be helpful to get staff input on games and other activities that the students can use to improve their social skills. We can also research and look at other peer groups for students with AS and HFASD. A program like this would benefit students like Autumn G. She does not have any close friends and only has a few very casual friendships. Autumn G. has been missing a lot of school lately because she is struggling with depression, which may be a result of feeling left out. Our school has a responsibility to help students while they are with us and prepare them for the world when they are out of school. Offering a peer group is another excellent way we can achieve this.
Matson, J. L., Matson, M. L., & Rivet, T. T. (2007). Social-skills treatment for childen with Autism Spectrum Disorders: An overview. Behavior Modification, 31(5), 682-707.
Trambel, Rebane. "Learning "Give and Take": Social Reciprocity for Kids on the Spectrum." Autism Speaks. 1 Mar. 2012. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.
Tse, J., Strulovitch, J., Tagalakis, V., Meng, L., & Fombonne, E. (2007). Social skills training for adolescents with asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(10), 1960-8. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10803-006-0343-3
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