Developing social skills for children with autism is a widespread consideration for parents, professionals in the field of autism, and educators. ABA therapy focuses on teaching and developing these skills in children by implementing special techniques and procedures based on the principles of learning and behavior. Scientists and behaviorists created ABA therapy to enhance social play, social intuition, and language skills in children with autism, among many other skills. For this article, we will focus on social skills.
The earlier a person with autism can start to target social skills, the more successful they will be at attaining them. A child’s best interest is to receive an autism diagnosis as early as possible. ABA intervention can help build stable, practical, and meaningful social skills over time. But, before beginning to shape a child’s behavior in a way that fosters independence and joint attention, we must first learn what social skills are.
What Are Social Skills for Children with Autism?
Social skills for children with autism are essential tools needed to function within society. They help us to cultivate valuable relationships that increase the opportunity for more successful social outcomes. Without the proper social skills, misinterpretations and miscommunications can occur during social encounters. For a social skill to be mastered and fully developed, the individual must have a complete understanding of the skill and how to act on it without assistance.
The main types of social skills for children with autism are:
- Verbal: The individual relays information through talking and speech. They explain how they are feeling to the people around them.
- Written: This involves communicating information, thoughts, feelings, and opinions through writing. Notes, letters, lists, emails, messages, and texts are all forms of written social skills.
- Nonverbal: The individual uses gestures and other nonverbal communication during social encounters. This individual will know how to communicate with body language and facial expressions.
- Empathetic: Empathy is often a skill that is made up of key components. The first is to recognize emotions in others, which can be challenging for an individual on the spectrum. The next aspect of empathy is understanding the why. Individuals with autism must consider what others are feeling and thinking. This awareness helps to create sincere responses to emotional situations.
Social skills for children with autism are often:
- Dependent on the situation as far as who and what matters. For example, social interactions at home can differ significantly from a doctor’s office scenario. It is also crucial to remember that each person’s social skills vary.
- Goal-oriented. This means that there is often a goal related to the interaction.
- Behaviors that are judged by others. These social behaviors are evaluated to determine the level of skills.
- Learned, practiced, and taught by anyone.
Why Is There a Struggle with Social Skills for Children with Autism?
Individuals with autism who are older or who have received a late diagnosis may experience more difficulty learning social skills. In some cases, it may take the child longer to understand an expectation. For any child on the spectrum, learning a new skill can take time, as developing skills can be complex. It can also take more time for these children to acquire skills because they must unlearn the old behaviors they were implementing to serve a function. Letting go of these unhelpful behaviors brings a child closer to having fantastic social skills. Having excellent social skills can help a child:
- Determine how to act in any given social situation
- Interact, make friends, and maintain relationships
- Discover new interests and hobbies
- Learn through peer imitation
Having a robust skill set is essential for children with autism. It has a significant impact on their mental wellbeing. Communicating needs, advocating for oneself, and expressing emotions will give children confidence and increase self-esteem. Building social skills is healthy mentally and emotionally and can improve the overall quality of life.
Additionally, children with autism face more significant social skill challenges because they have trouble noticing social cues and body language. These individuals may not recognize another person’s feelings, making them seem passive or uncaring. This is not the case; the child simply cannot process the information before them.
What Social Skills for Children with Autism Are Priority?
The most necessary social skills that ought to be taught to children with autism land within these four groups:
- Problem-solving skills: Making appropriate decisions in a social setting. Dealing with and resolving conflicts.
- Conversation skills: Selecting appropriate topics and using the correct body language.
- Play skills: Sharing and taking turns.
- Emotional skills: Recognizing, comprehending, expressing, and regulating emotions while doing the same for others.
Below are seven social skills that every child should have and why they are so important:
- Teaches leadership
- Teaches teamwork
- Helps set goals
- Displays respectfulness
- Contributes to the community and society
- Enhances effective communication
- Improves learning and the absorption of information
- Shows respect when another person is speaking
- Encourages patience
- Helps foster friendships
- Imparts good feelings
- Increases self-esteem
4. Following instruction
- Helps to avoid making dangerous mistakes
- Cultivates independence
- Demonstrates understanding
5. Making eye contact
- Demonstrates understanding
- Demonstrates joint attention
- Shows instructional control
- Shows respectfulness
- Is polite
6. Respecting Space
- Teaches respect
- Helps a child navigate personal boundaries
- Increases privacy
- Demonstrates an ability to follow the rules and instructions
7. Using Manners
- Shows respect
- Shows appreciation
- Teaches children how to be polite
- Can reduce problem behaviors
- Makes the child more approachable and friendly
How Can ABA Therapy Help Improve Social Skills for Children with Autism?
Applied Behavior Analysis, otherwise known as ABA, is a practical, scientific approach to teaching children with developmental conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder to be social. To do this, ABA therapy reinforces positive and healthy behaviors while reducing unwanted behaviors. It is one of the few treatments covered by insurance to help manage autism symptoms. ABA enhances strengths and addresses challenges. It is most known for helping improve social skills for children with autism.
- Interactive play
- Following instructions
- Social communication
- Conversation skills
- Coping during or ahead of challenging circumstances
- Consistent eye contact
- Identifying and understanding nonverbal and verbal social cues
ABA therapy was created to meet the needs of a socially developing person in numerous ways. When working with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), they will make a therapy plan for your child that is unique and meaningful. It will include skills that are valuable to the child and the family. The main goal of ABA therapy is to understand the function of your child’s behaviors. By understanding the role of the behavior, we can understand how to shape it safely to create a more productive outcome. Once problem behaviors are identified and intervened, a treatment plan is implemented.
ABA therapy can help your child build healthy social skills over time. It can improve their ability to learn and modify behaviors into more positive and valuable ones. Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) can make treatment fun by considering your child’s unique strengths and interests! We want your child to remain passionate about the things they love while introducing them to new aspects of the world. ABA therapy is designed to make the world around your child more accessible, so they can live more whole, productive, and independent lives.
Other Strategies that Build Social Skills for Children with Autism
1. Game Playing
Using games as tools is a wonderful way to teach social skills. Games are often tactile and fun! They are also good at making it easy to build upon social skills for children with autism. Playing diverse types of games can encourage interaction and even create friendships. Additionally, behaviors that are learned through playing games often stick.
Role-playing can be used to build social skills for children with autism. To do this:
- Select a theme and context for a specific social skill you want the child to learn.
- Allow the child to choose their role and act out the scenario.
- When role-playing, encourage the child to exhibit the best possible behavior for the situation. This prepares the child for the scenario taking place in real life.
3. Video Modeling
One of the most effective interventions to enhance social skills for children with autism is video modeling. RBTs will often use this technique. It works by having the child watch a video of the desired behavior. Upon completing the video, the child imitates the behavior they have just observed.
4. Visual Supports
Visual supports increase communication by adding a level of interpretability to the interaction. Photos, art, and various objects can be used as visual supports. Written words, “if-then” graphics, checklists, and schedules can all be helpful.
6. Positive Reinforcement
Giving out proper praise when it is earned is essential. Positive reinforcement is critical to teaching social skills to children with special needs. Feedback makes it easier for children to remember how to use good social skills because they feel rewarded. Give them lots of praise when displaying what you want to see more of! The idea is to make doing the right thing as fun as possible! Giving them credit when earned supplies them with feedback that they are on the right track.
7. Social Skills Training
The development of social skills for children with autism is behavioral therapy. It helps individuals with developmental disorders like autism to learn rapidly and acquire a skill set through practice. It shows children how to use positive behaviors within complex social situations. Social skills also teach valuable problem-solving skills that are required in everyday life.
8. Social Stories
Social stories are personalized short stories that depict expectations for an experience. They are an excellent way for individuals with autism to exchange information and understand upcoming circumstances easily.
Making a social story can help develop positive social skills for children with autism while reducing anxiety. In most cases, they will be written from an active first-person point of view. After reading the story, ask your child questions about who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Social Skills for Children with Autism and ABA Centers of America
We hope this article presents you with many ideas on enhancing social skills for children with autism while explaining why they are essential. Social skills can help your child open to a world of experiences. Social skills can improve your child’s life by making friends, participating in the community, or working alongside peers. If you would like more information about how ABA therapy can help your autistic child, contact us at (844) 923-4222 or visit abacenters.com.