Subscribe to stay informed of xMinds events, opportunities for advocacy, relevant news articles, and regional programs, lectures, and workshops to help parents and educators improve the educational experiences of students on the autism spectrum.

"... the most important considerations in devising educational programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders have to do with recognition of the autism spectrum as a whole, with the concomitant implications for social, communicative, and behavioral development and learning, and with the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual child across areas of development."
—Educating Children with Autism2001

xMindsWire Newsletter
Subscribe to stay informed of xMinds events, opportunities for advocacy, relevant news articles, and regional programs, lectures, and workshops to help parents and educators improve the educational experiences of students on the autism spectrum.

 Image result for facebook icon    Twitter icon    yahoo icon 

"... the most important considerations in devising educational programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders have to do with recognition of the autism spectrum as a whole, with the concomitant implications for social, communicative, and behavioral development and learning, and with the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual child across areas of development."
—Educating Children with Autism2001



Strategies
Intervention Strategies by Susan Stokes

Social Relationships

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to exhibit a lack of effectiveness in social interactions rather than a lack of social interactions. They tend to have difficulty knowing how to ‘make connections’ socially (4). Social situations are easily misread by children with Asperger’s Syndrome and as a result, their interactions and responses are often interpreted by others as being odd (4).

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome can exhibit low self-esteem and possible depression, particularly when they reach adolescence, due to their painful awareness of the social differences that exist between them and their peers (12). They have a desire to “fit in” socially, yet have no idea how to do this. Children with Asperger’s syndrome can be significantly impacted by the following characteristics of social relations:

Social Reciprocity: Children with Asperger’s Syndrome can exhibit an imbalance in reciprocal social relations (i.e., the “give and take” in social relationships), which can be exhibited in several ways:

The child can exhibit the need to take control and direct social situations according to his own limited social rules and social understanding. Although the child may be able to initiate interactions with others, these interactions are typically considered to be “on his own terms”. These interactions appear to be very egocentric in that they relate primarily to the child’s specific wants, needs, desires and interests and do not constitute a truly interactive, give-and-take social relation with another person.

The child can appear very quiet, withdrawn and even unresponsive. He exhibits limited social drive. It can be extremely difficult for the social participant to engage the child in a social relation. (e.g., A child with Asperger’s Syndrome was having a birthday party at her home. When the other children arrived, she stayed in the living room with them for a short while. She then said, “good-night”, and stayed in her room for the rest of the party.)

Recognizing and interpreting various social situations: Typically developing children are able to recognize and interpret the social nuances of various social situations without being specifically taught. Their intact processing systems allow for this to occur. However children with Asperger’s Syndrome typically have great difficulty recognizing, understanding and thus applying appropriate social skills to various social situations. Their unique processing/learning systems do not readily allow for accurate recognition and interpretation of this seemingly abstract information (14).

Social rules: Children with Asperger’s Syndrome typically do not learn social rules, either by observing others or through frequent verbal reminders. These children do not appear to be intentionally ignoring and/or breaking these rules. Instead, they have a difficult time accurately perceiving social environments and thus, they do not understand that a particular social rule is to be applied in a specific social context.
Example: A teacher frequently reminds a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, prior to going out for recess, that he cannot push other children. The child repeats this rule prior to going out to recess. However when the child goes onto the playground at recess, he pushes several children.

Friendship skills: Children with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to exhibit limited knowledge of the concept of friendship.
Example: When a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome was asked if he had any friends, he responded that friendship was an area where he had some problems. He was able to name two peers whom he considered “friends”; however, he did not know the last name of one of the students. He proceeded to physically describe the student to see if the listener knew the student’s last name. When asked why these students were his friends, he said because he saw them in the hallway during passing period, and that he also saw one of the students at a weekly church youth group meeting. When asked if he and his “friends” went to each others’ houses, talked on the phone, etc., the teen with Asperger’s Syndrome said no, that he just saw them at different places).

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome also do not appear to attend to or respond to peer pressure. They may have definite preferences for clothing due to comfort level, in relation to sensory sensitivities without regard or concern for popular styles as worn by peers.
Example: Some children prefer no ridges on the collar, no buttons down the front of a shirt, no blue jeans - only elastic waist pants, no long/short sleeves or long/short pants, etc.

Understanding and expressing varied emotional states: Children with Asperger’s Syndrome may have difficulty identifying (labeling and understanding) varied emotional states, both in themselves and in others. In addition, regulation of emotional states can be extremely difficult.
Example: When experiencing great distress, a child with Asperger’s Syndrome continually asks others for monitoring of his emotional states, “Am I under control yet?”, He has limited awareness of when he is calm, versus extremely upset. Another example would be laughing, seemingly inappropriately, when others are hurt, embarrassed, etc. One child with Asperger’s Syndrome physically manipulates his face when requested to exhibit various emotional states.

Social Relation Intervention Strategies
The child with Asperger’s will need to be directly taught various social skills (recognition, comprehension and application) in one-to-one and/or small group settings. Social skills training will also be needed to generalize previously learned social skills from highly structured supportive contexts to less structured settings and, eventually, real-life situations. It is important to emphasize that children with Asperger’s Syndrome typically will not learn social relations by watching other people, or by participating in various social situations. They tend to have great difficulty even recognizing the essential information of a social situation, let alone processing / interpreting it appropriately.

Tools for teaching social skills

The use of Social Stories (9) and social scripts can provide the child with visual information and strategies that will improve his understanding of various social situations. See the previous article on “Assistive Technology” for an explanation on social stories. In addition, the Social Stories/scripts can teach the child appropriate behaviors to exhibit when he is engaged in varied social situations. The repetitious “reading” of the Social Story/script makes this strategy effective for the child with Asperger’s Syndrome. A 3-ring binder of Social Stories/scripts kept both at home and school, for the child to read at his leisure, has proven very successful for many students with Asperger’s Syndrome. 

Role-playing various social situations can be an effective tool for teaching a child appropriate social responses.

Video-taping/audio-taping both appropriate and inappropriate social behaviors can assist the child in learning to identify and respond appropriately to various social situations.

“Lunch/recess club” is a structured lunch/recess time with specific peers to focus on target social skills for the child with Asperger’s Syndrome. This strategy can assist in generalizing social skills previously learned in a structured setting.

Comic Strip Conversations (8) can be used to visually clarify social interactions and emotional relations.

Peer partners/buddies: Specific peer(s) can be chosen to accompany and possibly assist the child with Asperger’s Syndrome during less structured social situations and when experiencing social difficulties (e.g., out of class transitions, recess, lunch, etc.). This peer support network should initially be established in a small group setting.

Individualized visual social “rule” cards can be taped to the child’s desk as a visual reminder regarding appropriate social behaviors to exhibit. Portable “rule” cards can be used for environments other than the classroom. The rules can be written on index cards, laminated, and then given to the child to carry along as visual reminders of the social “rules” for any particular context.


Reprinted from "Children with Asperger's Syndrome: Characteristics/Learning Styles and Intervention Strategies" by Susan Stokes, Autism Consultant for the Cooperative Educational Service Agency #7, Wisconsin State Department of Special Education. 


    Improving the educational experiences and outcomes of students on the autism spectrum in grades K-12

     
    Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software