What is it?
Many social skills are learned just by interacting with parents, peers and teachers. Social skills include participating in conversations, initiating play activities, using eye contact and greetings, and ending interactions appropriately. Students who use inappropriate ways of interacting may do so because they don't know how to use appropriate social skills. Teaching these skills involves instruction, role play and practice individually or in small groups. Practicing in natural settings (e.g., the playground) will help the student to use the social skills at the right place and time. It will be important to continue social skills training in a range of different contexts to help the student learn how to use their skills.
How do I use it?
- Identify the students who require help with social skills.
- Identify the specific social skills that need to be taught e.g. greetings, turn-taking and recognising others' feelings.
- Develop goals for each student. The goals must be measureable and observable e.g. “Paulo will respond to greetings within 5 seconds” rather than “Paulo will not be rude”.
- Consider students who can be grouped together to learn skills. Unlike Peer mediated intervention and Structured play groups, social skills training groups generally only involve students who need help with social skills.
- Plan appropriate times for the training group to meet. This may be in class time in a separate space, at lunch or before or after school.
- Implement training:
Monitor the progress of the goals for each student. Adjust program as necessary.
- Warm up activities - these could include getting to know you games that focus on learning about each other's' skills, interests, likes and dislikes (see websites at the end of the factsheet for ideas).
- Introduce the skill to be taught in this session through discussion, a video, or notes e.g. greeting peers, taking turns in conversations, starting conversations, inviting peers to play.
- Model the skill. See Modelling factsheet.
- Practice the skill: have the students imitate the model and practice with each other, with the tutor or teacher.
- Provide feedback and coaching on the student's performance e.g., your response to that greeting was timely and clear.
- Reflection - this can include students thinking about what they learned, what was easy, what was hard and when they could use the skill.
- Free time/snack with the group - this provides an unstructured opportunity to practice skills in a safe environment.
All ages with appropriate modifications for age and ability of the students.
Where can I learn more?
- Autism Internet Modules provide a way of learning online. The modules are free. You do need to set up an account to access the modules. Social skills training is one of the intervention strategies available as a module. For detailed information, see the Social Skills Groups module.
- Findings and conclusions: National standards project, phase 2
National Autism Center. (2015). Randolph, MA: National Autism Center.
- Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDF, 2.36MB)
Wong, C., et al. (2014). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, Autism Evidence-Based Practice Review Group.
Examples of warm up activities can be found online: