The sooner someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) starts to work on their social skills, the better. It's important that ASD gets diagnosed as early as possible so ABA therapists can help build strong, practical social skills with their autistic patients.
Read on to learn more about:
- What social skills are and why autistic children struggle with them
- Important social skills for autistic children
- How ABA therapy helps autistic children develop social skills
- Other common strategies used for teaching and developing social skills
What are social skills?
Social skills are essential tools. Everyone needs to have them and use them in their everyday lives. They are what make it possible to have successful communication. Without them, there would be misinterpretations during each social interaction with another person.
Social skills can be characterized one of the following:
Verbal social skills: Let the other person know about certain information through talking and voice how you're feeling to the people around you.
Written social skills: Exchanging information, feelings, thoughts, and opinions through writing. Newsletters, lists, emails, and notes are all used for written social skills.
Non-verbal social skills: Using appropriate gestures to communicate during social interactions and knowing how to use facial expressions and body language in practical ways.
Empathetic social skills: Empathy as a social skill consists of three key components. how to recognize the emotions of others. Understanding what they are feeling and thinking—knowing and feeling the same way that they do to give a sincere response.
Some of the common characteristics of social skills include:
- They are often goal-oriented.
- The social skills used depend on the situation, who it involves, and where it occurs. For example, a scenario taking place at home may produce a very different reaction than the same scenario taking place at work. Personal and professional social skills tend to be quite different from person to person.
- Social skills are certain types of behavior that get judged by other people. These behaviors get evaluated to determine our level of social skill.
- They can be taught, practiced, and learned by almost anyone.
- However, suppose they only get taught what the definition of those social skills is. In that case, they still get considered underdeveloped.
- To learn and develop social skills of their own, they need to have a complete understanding of what they are. They also need to know how to recognize them in day-to-day life. They need to have complete cognitive control over them without being told when and how to do so.
Why do autistic children struggle with social skills?
Autistic individuals who are older or have a late diagnosis may struggle to relearn healthy social skills. It could also take them longer to develop those skills as well. Learning a new skill set can take quite a bit of time.
More time is often needed because they also have to forget their old habits. Letting go of negative behaviors that hold them back is one step closer to having good social skills.
Having good social skills can help autistic children:
- Determine how to act appropriately in any social situation.
- Make new friends, and be able to keep them as well.
- Discover personal interests and develop new hobbies.
- Learn from their peers.
Another reason why children with autism struggle with social skills because it is much harder for them to pick up on social cues. They may not recognize how another person feels right away, which can sometimes lead to them seeming like they don't care.
A robust set of social skills is essential for autistic children. It will have a significant positive impact on their mental health. Communicating their needs and expressing emotions to others will give a massive boost to their self-esteem.
Building solid social skills is good for the mental and emotional wellbeing of people with ASD. It can increase their overall quality of life.
The most important social skills to teach an autistic child?
The most essential and needed social skills that can be taught to children with autism belong to these four groups:
Play skills: Sharing toys and taking turns to be fair with one another.
Conversation skills: Choosing appropriate conversation topics or what body language to use.
Emotional skills: Recognizing, understanding, expressing, and managing their emotions, also doing the same for the feelings of other people.
Problem-solving skills: Making proper decisions in social situations, dealing with and resolving conflict.
Here are seven social skills that every child should have and why they're so necessary to have:
- It helps make and keep friendships.
- Feeling good makes you share, and in return, sharing makes you feel good.
- It raises self-esteem.
- It Teaches teamwork.
- It Helps set goals.
- It Shows respectfulness.
- Positive contribution to society.
- Can teach leadership roles.
- Teaches good communication.
- Improves ability to learn and absorb information.
- Shows respect to the other person speaking.
- It teaches patience.
- It helps avoid having to correct mistakes.
- It shows independence.
- Following directions shows that they understand when they get asked to do something.
- Good work skill to have.
Respecting personal space
- It teaches respect.
- It helps set boundaries for themselves and other people.
- Allows privacy.
- Shows ability to follow the rules and directions.
Making eye contact
- Needed for proper communication.
- Good eye contact shows that they are listening.
- It shows respectfulness.
- It shows politeness.
- Shows respect.
- Good communication.
- It teaches politeness.
- It can help keep some behaviors more under control.
- It makes them more approachable.
ABA therapy for autistic children to improve their social skills?
Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) is an effective type of therapy. It is a common form of therapy for children with developmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
ABA therapy involves reinforcing new and healthy behaviors. It pinpoints what specific strengths and weaknesses need attention.
It is also one of the most popular therapies. It's primarily known for helping autistic children build positive skills such as:
- Interactive play
- How to follow directions
- Social communication
- How to initiate conversations
- How to take turns with others
- How to follow set rules
- Coping skills
- Appropriate eye contact
- Identifying and understanding social cues
- Reducing problem behaviors
ABA therapy's effective design was created for meeting the needs of everyone in a different way. Each treatment plan is unique.
The main goal of ABA therapy is first to understand how certain behaviors develop. Once the behaviors that have adverse effects get identified, intervention and a treatment plan get put into place.
ABA therapy can help your autistic child build healthy social skills. It can also improve learning abilities and modify behaviors into more positive ones. Check out Hidden Talents ABA to learn more about how you can easily access quality and effective treatments.
Additional Strategies for teaching and developing social skills
To role-play as a social skill-building strategy, set the role-play:
- Make its theme in context for a specific social skill you want the autistic child to learn.
- Let the child choose their role and act out the scenario.
- When role-playing, you want to show the best possible behaviors for specific situations. When they do happen in real life, they will have prepared to deal with it accordingly.
One of the most effective intervention strategies for teaching social skills to autistic children is video modeling.
It is a visual teaching technique and involves watching a video of the desired behavior. After the video is over you, then work with the child to try to mimic the same behaviors as seen in the video.
Use games as your tools when teaching autistic children new social skills. Games are hands-on and fun. They are good at making it easy for any child to take part in skill-building activities.
Playing different types of games is a great interactive way to develop meaningful social skills. Behaviors that get learned through playing games also often will stick.
Visual supports enhance the communication process by adding another interpretable level to it.
Photographs, artwork and various objects can all get used as visual supports. Using written words as visual supports, such as checklists and schedules, can also be used.
An excellent example of a visual support is a stop sign.
Giving proper praise
Giving out proper praise when deserved is essential. It's a necessary part of effectively teaching autistic children social skills.
Children are more likely to remember how to use good social skills when rewarded. You can give them praise for displaying certain positive, ideal behaviors.
Giving credit when needed also shows them that they are on the right track. It reassures them that they are offering the appropriate social behaviors.
Social skills training
Social skills training (SST) is a type of behavioral therapy. It helps people with developmental disorders, like ASD, to quickly learn and build a solid set of social skills.
It shows how to use positive behaviors in complex social situations. SST also teaches valuable social problem-solving skills needed in everyday life.
Read social stories
Social stories are personalized short stories. They are a way for autistic children to easily exchange information.
Doing so can make it easier to develop positive social skills. They typically get written in an active first-person point-of-view. They can answer questions based on: Who, what, when, where, why, and how.
You can find several examples of social stories for different specific issues here.