Social skills education teaches children with autism the communication skills needed for positive interactions and meaningful relationships. Developing these skills can build positive relationships, improve non-verbal communication skills, increase self-confidence, and support children in advocating for themselves.
Some children with autism may benefit from a social skills group. These groups consist of the child’s peers and a clinician who gives clear and explicit instructions for what to expect in a new situation. The children then have the opportunity to practice these skills with each other, which lets them learn in a safe, real-world environment. These groups break down abstract social constructs into concrete behaviors and encourage children to practice these skills, so they can be used outside the group. It also gives the children a space to make friends and build new relationships and can help children who are feeling lonely or isolated.
Other children may prefer individual social skills teaching and therapy. This allows the child to establish a relationship with a therapist and receive personalized and individual care. The child’s family also has the opportunity to become very familiar with the therapist and establish a consistent relationship together. Skills learned during individual therapy can be practiced in the community with their family supporting.
In either teaching environment, a child can learn their preferences during social interactions and how to communicate those to others, for example, wanting to fist bump or shake hands when introduced to someone.
As with anything new, you may not know what works best for your child until they’ve tried it. Social skills groups can be great for children who want to make friends but are anxious about doing so at school or other community programs and gives them a safe place to learn alongside their peers. Individual social skills education can be great for a child that thrives with one-on-one attention or needs extra support to develop their skills. A Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) can always help inform your choice and answer any questions you might have.
Learn more about Inner Circle Autism Network’s approach to teaching social skills and ABA therapy here.