How our social skills classes help your child
Contrary to popular belief, individuals with Autism often have a desire to communicate and be social- they just aren’t sure how. Similar characteristics of individuals with Autism, such as a lack of eye contact and apparent inability to read body language or facial expressions, beg the myth that they aren’t interested in conversing or developing lasting relationships.
However, as many as 50% of adults diagnosed with Autism also suffer from social anxiety, likely stemming from their lack of aid in developing communication skills as a child or in their teens.
At NAC, we believe that every person deserves to have meaningful and positive relationships with their peers. We offer ways to increase and/or teach play and social skills in children of all ages using behavioral science. Social skills groups at NAC bring about the ability to initiate and maintain conversations, leading to higher rates of peer acceptance, psychological well-being, and academic success – see the scientific study.
Our social skills groups are highly unique and focus on three specific concepts:
we understand how important interactions are and will be throughout each child’s life. Building rapport is the foundation for future learning. Our social skills group is about more than just learning to be friendly- we want our kids to form lasting connections with people that will fulfill their lives.
teaching social language is a pivotal part of our practice. Even if your child does not communicate verbally, we can teach and implement communication through AAC devices, PECS, or sign language. We want everyone in our group to be able to effectively communicate with peers and build personal relationships that will last a lifetime.
everything we do within the field of ABA, including social skills groups, is based on demonstrated scientific research. Data demonstrates systematic progress in our group and though this may be a “group” setting, all goals and programs are completely individualized. Data is continuously documented for each individual attending group, and progress reports can be made available upon request.
Social skills group setup in our Las Vegas ABA therapy center
Social skills are taught in these smaller environments and then immediately practiced, earning participants immediate positive reinforcement. Such positive reinforcements will help group members gain self-confidence as they continuously interact with their peers.
The social skills group environment contains visuals for the schedule and to encourage positive communication and participation.
Each group is highly individualized and comprehensive to meet the needs of each participant in the group. Our groups are formed according to shared interests, age, and areas of strength and need. Each child’s strengths and attractions are carefully analyzed to place them with the best-fitting peer group. The group routine and activities are then determined after each participant’s assessments have been analyzed and common goals have been identified.
The primary groupings are preschool, elementary, middle school, and teen groups. These larger categories are broken down to smaller groups with more specific goals for each. We strive to include neuro-typical peers when appropriate, without any distinction between the two.
Here are some examples of the areas practiced for the development of social skills:
- Social-Emotional Development
- Conversation skills
- Making and maintaining friendships
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Perspective taking
- Social dynamics
- Understanding nonverbal cues
- Expressing feelings
- Social awareness
- Social communication
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Observational learning
- Job Seeking
- Interviewing – pre, during, and post
- Interacting with a boss and coworkers
- Stress management techniques
In order to efficiently and effectively develop social skills, individuals with Autism will focus on:
- Direct instruction and “teachable moments” with practice in realistic settings
- Focus on timing and attention
- Support for enhancing communication and sensory integration
- Learning behaviors that predict important social outcomes like friendship and happiness
- A way to build up cognitive and language skills
Researchers at the University of Utah and the U.C. Davis MIND Institute identified the characteristics of an effective social skills group. Social skills groups should:
- Provide structure and predictability
- Break down abstract social concepts into concrete actions
- Simplify language and group children by language level
- Work in pairs or groups with cooperation and partnership encouraged
- Provide multiple and varied learning opportunities
- Foster self-awareness and self-esteem
- Provide opportunities for practice so that skills are used beyond the group in real life settings
Nevada Autism Center recognizes the expansive list of benefits a social skills group may offer an individual with Autism, and we made this a reality here at our center! Our professionals will use their experience and knowledge to foster environments and opportunities for students to learn, practice, and utilize communication skills. Professionals within an active social skills group may include BCBAs, Speech Language Pathologists “SLPs”, Occupational Therapists, Mental Health Therapists, and more, where appropriate.
The goal is not to have a child with Autism communicate as though they were “neurotypical”, but to give them practical, concrete solutions and actions to form their own social relationships in their own meaningful ways.
Benefits of social groups
Research continues to emerge regarding the benefits of social skills groups for various groups of individuals, including those children diagnosed with ASD. Our professionals at NAC recognize these benefits and believe that children who engage in this type of group will develop social skills that will ultimately help them to lead a more autonomous, fulfilling life as an adult.
- Build self-esteem and self-confidence
- Practice working with and within a group of peers
- Positive peer relations
- reciprocal play
- engaging in shared experiences
- Functional skills in sporting activities, coordination, and teamwork
- Life skills and independence
- Social judgment
- Body regulation
- Understanding and expressing your emotions
- Appropriate social greetings