Social skills development strategies

Most children with autism spectrum disorder find social situations very challenging.  How to communicate and how to interact with others does not come naturally.

Whilst the characteristics of autism vary from child to child the diagnostic criteria do include social communication difficulties which in a nutshell would mean:

  • The child may seem socially withdrawn or indifferent to others;
  • The individual child might prefer their own company over the company of other children or adults;
  • The child may engage with other children but in an unusual way.

Putting in place social skills development – strategies is vital for your child’s integration into society and these skills need to be taught from a young age.

Some strategies you can consider incorporating into your daily routine at home and/or into your child’s existing autism treatment plan could include:

  • The introduction of social stories which are basically personal stories written for children with autism to help them understand social situations better.  Most of these are written in a picture and word format (PECS) for easy understanding and clear communication;
  • Scripting also known as “social scripts” which are basically taught “parrot fashion” style and involves teaching the child scripts  that they can use in common social situations.  These can be quite affective to help the child with ASD initiate social contact and/or conversation;
  • Technology teaching means using computers, iPad’s, video’s music and any other techno-program to teach social skills to the child.  With so many autists being drawn to technology this method is used extensively in many autism schools and autism therapy or intervention centres.
  • Early intensive behavioural treatments are often also used with young children to help put development, especially social and language/communication development on track.
  • Peer mentoring is a type of social skills intervention traditionally used with pre-school children within a regular classroom environment;
  • Social skills groups most commonly used for school-aged children and adolescents on the spectrum.  It involves a group of 4-5 children participating in joint social skills lessons taught by a teacher or therapist; and/or
  • Video modelling which I guess would fall under technology teaching.

There is help available and many interventions have been designed to address the social skills deficits of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  What intervention to introduce and when to introduce it will be unique to each individual child.

Our advice to you is:  “find a reputable autism school, autism early intervention centre, qualified autism behaviour therapist and/or autism South Africa” and ask them for advice and/or help because a successful social skills intervention strategy is always going to include the parents, siblings and extended family and it will ultimately make the world of difference to the development of the child”.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.