Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulty connecting with others interaction, and play skills necessary for developing relationships with their peers. This article .. the peer strategies they learned during training sessions. Many children and adults on the autism spectrum need help in learning how to to practice their social skills with each other and/or typical peers on a regular. Social skills will help your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) know They can also help with family relationships and give your child a sense of belonging. Social skills training can help your child develop social skills in a structured way. of Relational Skills (PEERS®) is a social skills program for young children.
Too often, social skill deficits and inappropriate behaviors are incorrectly conceptualized as performance deficits. That is, we tend to assume that when a child does not perform a behavior, it is the result of refusal or lack of motivation.
Peer Models For Children With Autism | Environmental Center
In other words, we assume that the child who does not initiate interactions with peers has the ability to initiate, but does not want to initiate performance deficit. In many cases, this is a faulty assumption. In my experience, the vast majority of social skill deficits in young children with ASD can be attributed to skill acquisition deficits. That is, children with ASD are not performing socially because they lack the necessary skills to perform socially—not because they do not want to be social or refuse to be social.
If we want young children to be successful socially, then we have to TEACH them the skills to be successful! Therefore, it is essential to focus on skill development when implementing social skills instruction. Most intervention strategies are better suited for either skill acquisition or performance deficits. The intervention selected should match the type of deficit present.
That is, you would not want to deliver an intervention designed for a performance deficit, if the child was mainly experiencing a skill acquisition deficit. For instance, in the example above, if Tommy has not mastered the skill of hitting skill acquisition deficitall the reinforcement in the world including pizza! If we want him to be a skilled hitter, we need to provide Tommy additional instruction on the mechanics of hitting a baseball.
The same is true for social skills. If we want a child to be socially fluent, then we need to deliver effective social skills instruction. Once a thorough social skill assessment is completed and the team is able to attribute the social difficulties to either skill acquisition or performance deficits, social skills instruction is ready to begin. There are a variety of strategies that can be delivered to young children with ASD.
The most important thing is that the strategies being delivered are appropriate to the unique needs of the child and that a logical rationale can be provided for using the intervention.
The following strategies provide a sampling of techniques that can be implemented to teach successful social interaction skills to children and adolescents with ASD.
Other than peer mediated interventions PMIthe strategies listed below are designed to address skill acquisition deficits. However, some of the strategies in particular, video self-modeling and social stories work equally well in addressing performance deficits. In addition, it is imperative that the child be reinforced continually for his effort and participation in the program. Selecting Intervention Strategies Accommodation and Assimilation When selecting intervention strategies, it is important to consider the notion of accommodation versus assimilation.
Accommodation, as it relates to social skills instruction, refers to the act of modifying the physical or social environment of the child to promote positive social interactions. Examples of this include: Whereas accommodation addresses changes in the environment, assimilation focuses on changes in the child.
Assimilation refers to instruction that facilitates skill development that allows the child to be more successful in social interactions. The key to a successful social skills training program is to address both accommodation and assimilation. Focusing on one and not the other sets the child up for failure.
For instance, one family that I worked with did a wonderful job of structuring playgroups for their child, and keeping their child active in social activities.
However, they were becoming increasingly frustrated with the fact that their son was not making friends and still having negative peer interactions. The problem was that they were putting the cart before the horse. Similarly, providing skill instruction assimilation without modifying the environment to be more accepting of the child with autism also sets the child up for failure.
This happens the moment an eager child with autism tries out a newly learned skill on a group of non-accepting peers. The key is to teach skills and modify the environment. This ensures that the new skill is received by peers with both understanding and acceptance. Social Skills Strategies As stated previously, social skills often need to be taught explicitly to children and adolescents with ASD. Traditional social skills strategies such as board games about friendships and appropriate classroom behavior tend to be too subtle for many children with ASD.
For instance, a school counselor was frustrated with the progress she was making with a student with autism. Experience tells me that the concept of friendship is much easier to understand once you have a friend or two! There are number of important questions to consider when selecting social skill strategies. For instance, does the strategy target the skill deficits identified in the social assessment?
Does the strategy enhance performance? Does the strategy promote skill acquisition? Is there research to support its use?
If not, what is your plan to evaluate its effectiveness with your child? Is it developmentally appropriate for your child? The following is a list of social skill strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness in teaching social interaction skills to children with ASD. The following section summarizes various social intervention strategies that have been designed to promote social interaction skills in young children with ASD, including peer-mediated instruction, thinking-feeling activities, social stories, role-playing, and video- modeling.
Peer Mediated Interventions The use of peer mentors is one example of an effective strategy for young children with ASD. Peer mediated instruction allows us to structure the physical and social environment in a manner to promote successful social interactions.
In this approach, peers are systematically trained to make social initiations or respond promptly and appropriately to the initiations of children with ASD during the course of their school day. Peer mentors should be classmates of the child with ASD, have age-appropriate social and play skills, have a record of regular attendance, and have a positive or at least neutral history of interactions with the child with ASD. Peer mentors should also be made aware of the behaviors associated with autism in a manner that is respectful and developmentally appropriate for the age group.
The use of peer mentors allows the teacher and other adults to act as facilitators, rather than participate as active playmates. That is, instead of being a third wheel in child-child interaction, the teacher prompts the peer buddies to initiate and respond appropriately to the child with ASD and then get out of the way!.
The use of peer mentors also facilitates generalization of skills by ensuring that newly acquired skills are performed and practiced with peers in the natural environment.
Organizing your classroom to build interaction skills. Thoughts and Feelings Activities Recognizing and understanding the feelings and thoughts of self and others is often an area of weakness for children with ASD and is essential to successful social interactions. For instance, we continually modify our behavior based on the non-verbal feedback we receive from other people. We may elaborate on a story if the other person is smiling, looking on intently, or showing other signs of genuine interest.
On the other hand, if the other person repeatedly looks at her watch, sighs, or looks otherwise disinterested, we may perhaps cut the story short I said perhaps! Children with ASD often have difficulty recognizing and understanding these non-verbal cues. Because of this, they are less able to modify their behavior to meet the emotional and cognitive needs of other people.
The most basic thought and feeling activity involves showing the child pictures of people exhibiting various emotions.
Pictures can range from showing basic emotions such as happy, sad, angry, or scared, to more complicated emotions such as embarrassed, ashamed, nervous, or incredulous. Begin by asking the child to point to an emotion i. Many of the young children I work with seem to pick up the ability to identify emotions quite easily. This requires the child to make inferences based on the context and cues provided in the picture. You may cut pictures out of magazines, or download and print them from the Internet.
Once mastery is achieved on the pictures, move to television programs or video footage of social situations. Many of the programs that air on Sprout or Noggin, are excellent resources for this procedure because they portray characters in social situations, and display clear emotional expressions. You can use the same procedure as for the pictures, only this time the child is making inferences based on dynamic social cues. Simply ask the child to identify what the characters in the video are feeling and why they are feeling that way.
When the scenario moves too quickly for the child, press pause, and ask the question with a still frame. Make sure your machine has a clear picture when on pause. In addition, there are a number of software programs on the market that address both emotions and perspective taking abilities see Mind-Reading: Social Stories A Social Story is a frequently used strategy to teach social skills to children with disabilities.
A Social Story is a non-coercive approach that presents social concepts and rules to children in the form of a brief story. This strategy could be used to teach a number of social and behavioral concepts, such as making transitions, playing a game, and going on a field trip. Carol Gray ; outlines a number of components that are essential to a successful Social Story, including: I have found that children with ASD learn best when Social Stories are used in conjunction with Role-Playing and used as a social primer.
That is, after reading a Social Story, the child then practices the skill introduced in the story. For instance, immediately after reading a story about joining-in an activity with peers, the child would practice the skill.
Then, after reading the story and practicing the skill, the child would be exposed to a social situation where she would have an opportunity to perform the skill. For more comprehensive guidance on creating a Social Story, see Gray, It is an effective approach to teaching social skills that allows for the positive practice of skills Gresham, Role-playing involves acting out situations or activities in a structured environment to practice newly acquired skills and strategies, or previously learned skills that the child is having difficulties performing.
Role-plays can be either scripted or spontaneous. In the latter, the child is provided with a scenario e. Typically, I combine scripted and unscripted elements to each role-play.
For instance, the child might be provided with an opening statement or question, but the rest of the interaction would be spontaneous. I use role-playing to teach a variety of interaction skills, particularly those involving initiating, responding, and terminating interactions.
In one scenario, the child is required to initiate a conversation with another person, who is engaged in a separate task. Consequently, he would have to ask to join in, or ask the other person to join him in an activity. The latter typically proves to be most difficult for children with ASD. During the early sessions, the child should be given ample time to process and respond to the role-play scenarios. As the sessions progress, speed and proficiency should gradually increase.
A video modeling intervention involves an individual watching a video demonstration of a behavior and then imitating the behavior of the model. Video modeling may be used with peers, adults, or self as a model video self-modeling. Video self-modeling VSM interventions have the added advantage of providing the child with a visual representation of success…their own success! VSM can be used to promote skill acquisition, enhance skill performance, and reduce problem behaviors.
It integrates a powerful learning medium for children with ASD visually cued instruction with an effective evidence-based intervention modality modeling. An emerging body of research demonstrates great promise for the use of video modeling peer or adult as modeland video self-modeling VSMas a therapeutic modality for children with ASD.
Bellini and Akullian in-press conducted a meta-analysis of video modeling and video-self modeling research across 20 peer-reviewed studies and involving 63 participants with ASD. Results suggest that video modeling and VSM are effective intervention strategies for addressing social-communication skills, behavioral functioning, and functional skills in children and adolescents with ASD.
Specifically, these procedures promote skill acquisition and that skills acquired via video modeling and VSM are maintained over time and transferred across person and settings. That is, video modeling and VSM appear to be effective interventions for children across the spectrum of autism from early childhood to adolescence.
Interventions produced rapid increases or decreases in some cases in targeted skills with a median intervention length of nine video viewings. In addition, the median duration of the video clips shown to participants was only three minutes. PSR refers to children viewing themselves successfully engaging in a behavior or activity that is currently in their behavioral repertoire. PSR may be used with low-frequency behaviors or behaviors that were once mastered, but are no longer.
In this case, the individual is videotaped while engaging in the low-frequency behavior and then shown a video of the behavior. An example of a PSR intervention for preschoolers would be to video record the child participating with peers low frequency behavior and then show the child the video.
The children in the study viewed videotapes of themselves answering questions while engaging in play activities. Although answering questions was a low frequency behavior for these children, the videos were edited to portray the children as fluent in their responses i. The intervention produced rapid increases in unprompted verbal responding.
Video feedforward, another category of VSM interventions, is typically used when the individual already possesses the necessary skills in her behavioral repertoire, but is unable to put them together to complete an activity.
Making (and Keeping) Friends: A Model for Social Skills Instruction
For instance, the child may have the ability to get out of bed, brush her teeth, get dressed, and comb her hair morning routinebut cannot perform these skills in the proper sequence. A video feedforward intervention would videotape her engaging in each of these tasks and then splice the segments together to form the proper sequence.
The same may be done with typical social interaction sequences. For instance, the child could be videotaped demonstrating three different skills: The three scenes could then be blended together to portray one successful, and fluent social interaction.
Feedforward is also a good option for children who need additional assistance, or support, to complete tasks successfully.
For instance, the child may be videotaped interacting with peers while an adult provides assistance through cueing and prompting. It's great that a child with autism learns to play a game with a peer sitting at a table, but the long-term goal is that he plays many games in different settings with a variety of peers. The introduction of novel games, settings, and peers is a necessary strategy for social skills development.
Prior to beginning the sessions, I met with the peer models to provide a general training about strategies for supporting peers less apt to engage in social interactions and allow them an opportunity to ask questions. Our discussions were honest and factual, while maintaining confidentiality and with respect for the children's privacy.
A study led by Dr. Connie Kasari of the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment demonstrates the benefit of training typically developing peers to engage with classmates with social difficulties. The study compared two types of interventions; one in which typically developing peers were trained to support classmates with perceived social difficulties and one in which students were provided one-to-one social skills instruction.
Peers trained to support those with social skills deficits were never told which of their classmates had autism. The study found that children with autism who had classmates trained in strategies to help those with apparent social skills difficulties spent less time alone on the playground, had more classmates cite them as friends, and their teacher reported an increase in positive social behaviors as compared to the children who received the one-to-one instruction.
The goal of peer model groups isn't to teach the models to simply accept the children they are working with, it's also to positively challenge those children to engage, to communicate, and to share. Another study, this one by Robin Sumiko Matsumoto, cited the positive effect of social interactions with typically developing peers for children with autism.
This study included three toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder, all under the age of three, who engaged in peer mediated play interactions with typically developing peers. Positive effects were noted in the subjects' joint attention, social behavior, and vocal behavior. One subject was observed to not only exhibit more vocalizations, but vocalizations that were made with the intent to communicate with peers, teachers, and family members and were more clear and articulate than at the beginning of the study.
In my experience, the peer models learn and grow just as much as the children they are paired with. More than just compassion and patience, they get a real feel for the mind of a child with autism and they develop their own communication and relationship skills.
It's important to note that using peer models to develop social skills is just one strategy as part of a comprehensive approach. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder benefit from instruction that breaks down larger concepts into clear steps or rules, the use of visual reminders or cues are often helpful, and positive reinforcement, including verbal praise or a predetermined reward, are used to increase the likelihood of the positive social behavior occurring again.