Does your child experience conflicts during play dates?
Does your child get anxious when around other children?
Does your child have difficulty sharing?
Does your child often express themselves physically instead of verbally?
Does your child have trouble joining games and other group activities?
Does your child receive negative reports about peer interaction from teachers at school?
Social skills groups can help. Children already face challenges growing up and children with autism need extra support to help overcome them. Social skills groups involve learning how to communicate with others, but these groups are much more than that. These groups help increase the overall quality of life for the child and play a vital role in how they develop meaningful relationships. Remember, the children are in a safe and supportive environment which provides the optimal place to practice social skills.
Children with autism experience a deficit in in social interaction and have difficulty building relationships with peers. According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), one of the defining features of autism is deficits in social communication and interaction. It is the BCBA’s (Board Certified Behavior Analysts) job to identify the specific social skills that a child may be struggling with. The BCBA will choose target skills and once those skills are mastered, new target skills will be added. Social skills groups can help prepare your child for social settings that will inevitably occur in the future. For example, preparing a child for school where they will encounter other children in various social situations such as the classroom and on the playground. The playground is where many of the first friendships initially begin.
When the children are in the social skills groups, they can all learn from each other by observing different social situations and how others react. This will Increase self-confidence and lead to an increase of positive interactions. Building confidence is one of the major benefits of social skills groups. Confidence plays a large role in a child’s self-esteem. How a child views themselves and trusts their own instincts and abilities is important to living a successful life. When things do go wrong in life, self-esteem can help children cope better. Self-esteem allows the child to believe they can accomplish any task and leads to better grades, friendships, and overall success.
The following is a list of possible skills that could be targeted. The specific skills chosen depend completely on the individual.
The single largest controlled trial to track the how effective a social skills program is a young adult version of the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills, or PEERS. The findings were as follows: “the researchers evaluated the participants at the end of the 16-week course.
Those who completed the classes had significantly greater improvements in social skills and frequency of social engagement, compared to the comparison group on the waitlist. In addition, those who took the class had a significant decrease in autism symptoms related to social responsiveness”.
Furthermore, these skills were evaluated four months later and the participants had retained them and showed important gains in social skills and engagement.