Excerpt: Social skills strategies for students on the autism spectrum are key to the development of healthy relationships and fulfilling social interactions.
Challenges with communication and social interaction are common in people who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. This population often experience difficulties in interacting and communicating with others, which significantly affects their ability to form relationships. Relationships are an essential part of healthy functioning and overall wellbeing for everyone, but this is especially true for students, such as the post-high school ones we support at Transitions. So much of a student’s educational success relies on his or her ability to communicate, and thus form relationships, with their peers, teachers, coaches and others.
It is vital that students on the autism spectrum receive the support they need to flourish socially. Thankfully, there is a lot of support out there. At the Transitions campus, near Albany, New York, we offer support programs and camps tailored to the various needs of the young people we support, including social skills strategies for students on the autism spectrum. But even if your student has not yet graduated from high school, there are still ways you can help them now to learn the social skills they need to navigate college, the career field and independent living as a whole.
Social Skills Strategies for Students with Autism
Parents, mentors and teachers of students on the autism spectrum have many options for supporting him or her in developing the necessary social skills for effective communication and building meaningful relationships.
- Model (and explain) – Young people typically learn through watching and imitating others. The more appropriate social behavior a child or teen sees, the more likely they are to incorporate it into his or her own social interactions. Because children and teens on the autism spectrum may not be able to fully understand what they are seeing, it is important to couple modeled behavior with explanations of what you are doing and why.
- Reinforce – Positive reinforcement is useful in teaching any child or teen, especially those on the autism spectrum. Give positive reinforcement immediately after the desired social behavior has occurred as a way to encourage and solidify future behaviors.
- Choose the teaching environment wisely – Children and teens on the autism spectrum are particularly attuned to environmental sensations (noise, light, etc.) and can become easily overwhelmed. When supporting the learning of social skills strategies for students on the autism spectrum, it is vital to be aware of possible sensory issues and alter the environment accordingly.
- Teach boundaries – Having a clear set of social boundaries and rules is essential in learning what is acceptable and what is not, in terms of appropriate social behavior. Children and teens on the autism spectrum tend to have trouble understanding the “unwritten” boundaries, so giving them concrete expectations is often necessary. Give them clear guidelines about things such as personal space, expressions of affection, sensitive topics and more.
- Role-playing and social “scripts” – One of the most effective ways to teach social skills strategies to children and teens on the autism spectrum is using role-playing and “scripts” or stories. Social “scripts” are written narratives describing common social situations the student may encounter (i.e. – riding the school bus, waiting in the lunch line, etc.). Social scripts are great for students on the autism spectrum because they provide structure and predictability to situations that otherwise might seem scary or overwhelming.
Whether or not a child or teen receives outside intervention or educational assistance, there are many well-defined ways to support the learning of social skills strategies for students on the autism spectrum.
To find out more about the programs, specialty camps and other services Transitions offers near Albany, New York, please call (518) 775-5384.