Social Skills for school aged children with autism

What are Social Skills?

  • Social Skills are the behaviours used to effect an interaction with others e.g. joining in, initiating and responding to others, greeting, cooperative play, conversational skills
  • Social Cognition is a range of abilities that enable the processing of a social interaction e.g. social problem solving, knowledge of social rules, understanding the perspective of others (theory of mind), social inferencing.

Why teach Social Skills?

  • Children with autism need specific instruction is social skills. It is unlikely that simply placing a child in a classroom and hoping for them to learn by social osmosis will be enough to improve their social skills (Odom & Brown, 1993).

What is the best way to learn Social Skills at school?

 What are the most effective social skills interventions?

  • Peer mediated interventions when peers are taught how to facilitate interactions
  • Adult mediated behavioural approaches including modelling, prompting, rewarding
  • Video modeling
  • Direct instruction
  • Visual scripts and fading
  • Visual supports
  • Self-monitoring
  • Pivotal response training (a naturalistic, behavioural approach )
  • Social Stories (less effective for social skills than behavioural skills)

(Hart & Whalon, 2011; Rao, Beidel, & Murray, 2008; Reichow & Volkmar, 2010; Williams White, Keonig, & Scahill, 2007)

What does the research say about Social Skills groups?



Bellini, S., Gardner, L., & Markoff, K. (2014). Social skill interventions. In F. Volkmar, R. Paul, S. Rogers & K. Pelphrey (Eds.), Handbook of Autism Spectrum Disorders. New York: Wiley & Sons.

Brown, W., McEvoy, M., & Bishop, N. (1991). Incidental teaching of social behavior: A naturalistic approach for promoting young children’s peer interactions. . Teaching Exceptional Children, 24, 35 – 38.

Frea, W., Craig-Unkefer, L., Odom, S. L., & Johnson, D. (1999). Differential Effects of Structured Social Integration and Group Friendship Activities for Promoting Social Interaction with Peers. Journal of Early Intervention, 22(3), 230-242.

Hart, J. E., & Whalon, K. J. (2011). Creating social opportunities for students with autism spectrum disorder in inclusive settings. Intervention in school and clinic, 46(5), 273.

Odom, S., & Brown, W. (1993). Social interaction skills interventions for young children with disabilities in integrated settings. Baltimore: Paul H Brooks.

Rao, P. A., Beidel, D. C., & Murray, M. J. (2008). Social Skills Interventions for Children with Asperger’s Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism: A Review and Recommendations (Vol. 38, pp. 353-361): Springer. 233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013.

Reichow, B., & Volkmar, F. R. (2010). Social Skills Interventions for Individuals with Autism: Evaluation for Evidence-Based Practices within a Best Evidence Synthesis Framework. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(2), 149-166.

Rule, S., Losardo, A., Dinnebeil, L., Kaiser, A., & Rowland, C. (1998). Translating research on naturalistic instruction into practice. Journal of Early Intervention, 21(4), 283-293.

Williams White, S., Keonig, K., & Scahill, L. (2007). Social Skills Development in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Review of the Intervention Research. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(10), 1858-1868.

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