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Introduction to Teaching Social Skills. Presented by: Candace A. Fugazy MA.Edu, BCBA & Megan Mayo, BA 8/20/10. Why is Social Development so Important?. Research states that : People with friends are …. Happier/fewer instances of mental health disorders (e.g., depression)

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introduction to teaching social skills

Introduction to Teaching Social Skills

Presented by:

Candace A. Fugazy MA.Edu, BCBA


Megan Mayo, BA


why is social development so important
Why is Social Development so Important?

Research states that : People with friends are ….

  • Happier/fewer instances of mental health disorders (e.g., depression)
  • Healthier/Live Longer
  • Less likely to be victims of crime (or bullying)
  • Overall positive outcomes
why is social development so important cont
Why is Social Development so Important? (Cont.)
  • Social relations act as a natural support function.

- Help us accomplish goals and tasks.

- Helps gain entry into social groups/more friends = more support.

  • Can aid in the stimulation of language development/more natural language.
  • Interaction with peers allows children to acquire and practice learned skills.

- modeling

- feedback

why is social development so important cont4
Why is Social Development so Important? (Cont.)
  • Establishes a feeling of behavioral competency, support and belonging.
  • It is not necessary to be social all of the time but skills are needed to draw people to you. If kids are un-responsive, peers will be un-responsive too.
  • Best prediction of positive, long term outcomes for people with special needs.
theory of mind tom and perspective taking
The ability to intuitively track what others know and think during personal interactions.

The ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking and to know that it those thoughts are different from your own.

Deficits in ToM are also referred to as mind-blindness.

Can look like selfishness or a lack of empathy

ToM difficulties affects comprehension of literature as well as social interactions.

Theory of Mind (ToM) and Perspective Taking
asperger s syndrome
Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Impairment in social interactions: theory of mind, difficulty developing age appropriate peer interactions.
  • Lack of social/emotional reciprocity.
  • No clinically significant delays in language, cognitive development, self care skills, and adaptive behavior.
  • Significant delays in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • May seem “oblivious” toward the perspective of others.
  • May seem one sided or egocentric.
asperger s syndrome8
Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Literal thinkers
  • Difficulty comprehending the idea of “friendships”
  • Interests often comprise of very rote facts.
  • May crave social interaction on their “own terms” but may lack emotional connection with others.
  • May have very flat speech.
  • May be “clumsy” and have poor handwriting or drawing skills.
  • Inflexible to social rules-”Hidden Curriculum” makes teaching social rules difficult.
social deficits in individuals with emotional behavioral disorder
Social Deficits in Individuals with Emotional Behavioral Disorder

Excess of the following behaviors:

  • Arguing/ Tantruming
  • Defiant Behavior and/or Aggressive Behavior
  • Non-Compliance (most students comply with teacher’s requests 80% of the time, “Tough Kids” only 40%)
  • Coercive behavior to “get their way” with peers and adults.
  • Lack of self-management skills
social deficits in individuals with emotional behavioral disorder10
Social Deficits in Individuals with Emotional Behavioral Disorder
  • Academic deficits
  • Lack of social foundation skills (e.g., initiating conversation, grooming, cooperation, and offering positive feedback to others.)
  • Lack of Intermediate/Advanced Social Skills-skills building on foundation skills (e.g., accepting negative feedback, assertiveness, saying “No”, resisting peer pressure and teasing, and anger management.)
  • Students may be socially immature, controlling, withdrawn and non-cooperative.
social deficits in individuals with emotional behavioral disorder11
Social Deficits in Individuals with Emotional Behavioral Disorder
  • Rapid turnover in friendships. Tend to have friendships with younger peers or of similar behavioral difficulty.
  • Students who often act out and are non-compliant and disruptive during their school years often carry these same behaviors into adulthood.
  • Generally speaking grow up to have multiple marriages, difficulty holding jobs, and break society’s laws.
learning disabled students evans axelrod and sapia 2000 cited from karvale ka and forness sr 1996
Learning Disabled Students-Evans, Axelrod and Sapia, 2000, cited from Karvale, KA and Forness, SR, 1996.
  • 75% of students with learning disabilities possess poor social interactions and inappropriate behaviors in comparison to their peers.
  • Exhibit fewer positive social behaviors.
  • Showed less initiative in peer interactions.
  • Lower rates of peer reinforcement and possessed less cooperative behaviors.
learning disabled students evans axelrod and sapia 2000 cited from green rw et al 1996
Learning Disabled Students-Evans, Axelrod and Sapia, 2000,cited from Green, RW et al., 1996.
  • Research demonstrates a significant relationship between social impairment and the likelihood of tobacco, alcohol or other drug abuse. This suggests that social impairment “plays a pivotal role in increasing the likelihood of children abusing substances as they progress through adolescence.”
why don t all children learn acceptable social behaviors
Why Don’t All Children Learn Acceptable Social Behaviors?
  • May not possess the cognitive ability
  • May not know what the appropriate behaviors are.
  • The student’s emotional responses may inhibit the performance of the desired behavior (e.g., anxiety, fear or anger).
  • May have the knowledge but lack the practice.
considerations in interventions
Considerations in Interventions
  • What skill to target? Examples?
  • What are the benefits of having this skill?
  • Does it use their strengths?
  • Will it motivate the child?
  • Where can it be used?
  • How does the child learn best?
  • How to make it meaningful?
  • How is the skill going to generalize?
basic steps to intervention axelrod and sapia 2000
Basic Steps to Intervention- Axelrod and Sapia, 2000
  • Identify key skills

-e.g., look for skills that might lead to punishing results and target them first. Skills that lead to peer acceptance.

  • Target only a few new skills at a time.
  • Teach skill in isolation.
  • Practice in controlled settings.
  • Prompt/Assess in Uncontrolled settings
  • Work with educators and parents to know when to ignore, praise and focus attention on certain behaviors to improve pro-social behaviors and increase success.
some social skill interventions
Some Social Skill Interventions
  • Social Thinking Curriculum/Superflex
  • Peer Intervention
  • Social Stories
  • Comic Strip Conversations
  • Video Modeling
  • Contingency Mapping
what is social thinking
What is Social Thinking?
  • A instruction-based approach to supporting social behavior.
  • Explicitly teaches
    • social rules and norms,
    • emotional regulation strategies
    • perspective taking
    • causes and effects of behavior of self and others
  • Developed by Michelle Garcia Winner, SLP.
who is social thinking for
Asperger’s Syndrome

High Functioning Autism


Nonverbal Learning Disability


Anyone with social cognitive deficits

High IQ, and other standardized test scores do not rule out weak social cognition.

Anyone with 1) strange behavior, 2) lack of a peer group, or 3) poor school performance compared to what would be predicted based on test scores probably has difficulties with social cognition.

Who is Social Thinking for?
in what ways may individuals have difficulties with social thinking
In what ways may individuals have difficulties with Social Thinking?
  • Central Coherence Theory
  • Executive Functioning
  • Theory of Mind

Wetherby, A.M & Prizant, B.M. (2001). Autism Spectrum Disorders; A Transactional Developmental Perspective. Baltimore,MD, Paul Brookes Publishing.

central coherence theory
The ability to incorporate smaller ideas into a larger concept.

Relating parts into a larger pattern of behavior and thought.

Deficits in Central Coherence Theory might look like:

Conceptual learning disability

Difficulties understanding “the big picture”

Difficulty making connections between common events

Difficulties generalizing learning to new situations.

Central Coherence Theory
executive functioning ef
Identifying a problem, identifying a solution, locating resources, making a plan, executing that plan.

In more technical terms,EF refers to the neurological processes that are behaviorally manifested as

initiating behaviors while inhibiting other behaviors that may interfere with problem solving

Regulating attention to filter out distraction and irrelevant information and shifting attention to the relevant information

Upload and manipulate mental representations of the plan/behaviors

It is action selection and initiation- the integration of memory, perception, affective, and motivation systems.

Pennington & Ozonoff (1996). Executive Functions and Developmental Psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 37, 51-87

Executive Functioning (EF)
i laugh model
  • I= Initiation of Communication or Action
  • L=Listening With Eyes and Brain
  • A=Abstract and Inferential
  • U=Understanding Perspective
  • G=Gestalt Processing: Getting the Big Picture
  • H=Humor and Human Relatedness
some social thinking terminology
Some Social Thinking Terminology
  • Expected and unexpected behaviors

Following the rules (written and unwritten) is “expected” behavior. Behavior that doesn’t make social norms or rules is “unexpected”

  • Good thoughts and weird thoughts

People have “good” thoughts about people when they have “expected” behaviors. People have “weird” thoughts about people who have ‘unexpected” behaviors

  • Smart guess and wacky guess

A “smart” guess is an educated guess based on evidence and information. A “wacky” guess is one made when one doesn’t have enough or any information.

tools for teaching social thinking
Tools for teaching social thinking

Behavior Maps

  • Maps out an event
    • Identifies the problem
    • How the student tried to solve it
    • How well the solution worked
    • What effects the behavior had on others
    • What other solutions might there be that are both self smart and people smart
problem there is a field trip to the great escape and i have to ride the bus i hate the bus
Problem: There is a field trip to the Great Escape and I have to ride the bus. I hate the bus.
tools for teaching social thinking33
Tools for teaching social thinking

Behavior Maps

  • Maps out a topic/scenario
    • Lists the expected and unexpected behaviors in a situation
    • How those behaviors make others feel
    • The consequences of the effects of the behaviors
    • How those consequences feel
    • Helps individuals see the chain of events for the choices they make
riding on a school bus
Riding on a School Bus

Adapted from: Winner, M.G.(2007). Social Behavior Mapping. Connecting Behavior, Emotions, and Consequences Across the Day. San Jose, CA: Michelle Garcia Winner.

tools for teaching social thinking36
Tools for teaching social thinking

5 Point Scales

  • Systems for visually representing more complex or abstract things, such as emotions, anxiety, and social acceptability.
    • How is Your Engine Running?
    • The Incredible 5 Point Scale
    • A 5 is Out of Control
    • A 5 is Against the Law
  • Can help students think about all the shades of grey between black and white thinking.
ben s angry pissed off scale
Ben’s Angry/Pissed off Scale

From: Buron, K.D. & Curtis, M. (2003) The Incredible 5-Point Scale.

Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.

tools for teaching social thinking38
Tools for teaching social thinking

Superflex/Be a Social Detective

By Michelle Garcia Winner

  • A story based curriculum for school age children with social learning delays to learn to:
    • Think about other people’s behavior (be an OWL. Observe, wonder, learn)
    • Learn what behaviors are “expected” and “unexpected”
    • Learn about “good” thoughts and “uncomfortable” thoughts that people can have about other people’s behavior
    • Superflex includes a cast of “bad guys” who represent common roadblock to effective social communication.
peer intervention nsr established treatment
Peer Intervention-NSR Established Treatment
  • Typically developing children are selected and trained to improve social interaction of children with autism.
  • May work with students one on one or in small groups in natural settings.
  • Peers may be better at redirecting children with autism as they are more natural role models and may be better accepted than adults.
peer intervention
Peer Intervention
  • The primary objective of including peers as intervention agents is to increase social participation in naturalistic settings without allowing the children to isolate themselves or rely on teachers for prompting.

-Strain and Kohler, 1998.

  • Social and play skills are often the most challenging deficits in children with autism and seldom addressed in school based classrooms.
peer intervention41
Peer Intervention
  • Peers should be carefully chosen.
  • (Phil Strain)- The potential peer should:
          • Possess appropriate self care skills
          • Have the ability to move through activities without direction
          • Possess on-task behavior minimum 90% of the time
          • Be older for cross developmental training.
          • Have a wide friendship network (they may already have the skills to interact with a variety of personalities).
          • Exceptions……
interaction concepts
Interaction Concepts

Teach the peer…..

  • how to gain attention from the child.
  • how to keep speech brief.
  • how to give directions and demonstrate skills to the child.
  • how to administer reinforcement.
  • how to re-direct.
  • the skills to handle rejection.

- rehearse/roll play with the peer

- “drill” the notion that if you are not successful to try again

more interaction concepts
More Interaction Concepts
  • Use gestural and visual prompts to avoid adult dependence
  • Allow children to be 1:1. Be the “ring leader” and organizer, not the translator
  • Use Shadow Prompting

- stand behind the child and whisper the question/comment in the child’s ear

- helpful intervention for echolalia with hopes that responses will generalize

- only whisper the words you want the child to speak

Typical Steps of Interaction*Adapted from Simpson et. al (1997). SocialSkills for Students with Autism-2nd Edition

1. Peer establishes eye contact (e.g. say student’s name, touch shoulder, etc.).

2. Peer establishes a joint focus of attention (e.g. look at same toy).

3. Peer describes his or her own play and that of others.

4. Peer prompts requests (e.g. “Do you want the car? Say yes.”).

5. Acknowledges all forms of communication.

6. Expands and restate comments.

7. Requests clarification as needed.

8. Redirects play activity as needed.

Typical Steps of Interaction*Adapted from Simpson et. al (1997). SocialSkills for Students with Autism-2nd Edition

Tips on Using

  • Teach peers to acknowledge and discuss the behaviors of student with autism to help increase awareness and understanding.
  • Encourage brief interaction initially and gradually expand.
  • Initially focus on activity rather than on the interaction to allow children to become familiar with one another.
  • Emphasize similarities among all students.
  • Teach peers how to obtain answers (e.g. using communication choice boards).
  • Teach socially competent peers to interact with student with autism and incorporate untrained peers into the activity.
  • Emphasize turn taking behaviors.
benefits for typical peer
Benefits for Typical Peer
  • They develop more positive and accepting attitudes towards individuals with disabilities.
  • Develop stronger social skills.
  • Equal, if not greater developmental progress.
  • Have less disruptive/inappropriate behavior.
  • Viewed as more socially skillful by teachers and parents.
social stories nsr established treatment
Social Stories-NSR Established Treatment
  • Developed by Carol Gray in 1991.
  • Assists students in learning the perspectives of the individuals they are interacting with and developing a greater social understanding.
  • A short description of a particular event or activity offering specific information on what to expect and why.
  • Offers students skills for reaction and/or interaction in varied social situations.
social stories
Social Stories
  • To develop self-care skills (e.g. how to clean teeth, wash hands or get dressed), social skills (e.g. sharing, asking for help, saying thank you, interrupting), sexuality, etc.
  • To assist an individual to cope with changes to routine, and unexpected or distressing events (e.g. absence of teacher, moving house, thunderstorms).
  • To provide positive feedback to an individual regarding an area of strength or achievement in order to develop self esteem.
  • As a behavioral strategy (e.g. what to do when angry, how to cope with obsessions).
how are social stories helpful to individuals with asd
How Are Social Stories Helpful to Individuals With ASD?
  • Information is presented in a literal, concrete and accurate manner, which may aide in the individual’s understanding of a previously difficult or ambiguous situation or activity.
  • The visual presentation of Social Stories utilizes the preference for visual processing experienced by many individuals with ASD.
how are social stories helpful to individuals with asd con t
How Are Social Stories Helpful to Individuals With ASD? Con’t
  • Provides information about what to expect in a particular situation and guidelines for the individuals own behavior in a format that is meaningful and relevant. Social Stories can increase structure in the individuals life and thereby reduce anxiety.
  • Assist with sequencing (i.e. what comes next in series of activities) and executive functioning (i.e. planning and organizing).
guidelines for writing social stories
Guidelines for Writing Social Stories
  • Tailor the story to meet the student’s level of understanding.
  • Think from the student’s perspective.
  • Observe the situation first hand.
  • Phrase all sentences with a positive slant.
  • Do not label the negative behavior.
  • Keep visuals and words to a minimum.
guidelines for writing social stories52
Guidelines for Writing Social Stories
  • Social Stories are not scripts detailing appropriate behaviors, rather, they are descriptions of social situations which set the stage for the child to design successful, positive interactions.
  • Avoid using absolute, inflexible sentences in your stories. Replace phrases like "I can" and "I will" with "I will try" or "I will work on" in directive sentences. "Usually" and "sometimes" should be used instead of "always" in perspective and descriptive sentences.
guidelines for writing social stories cont
Guidelines for Writing Social Stories Cont.
  • There are three types of sentences used to present this information in a Social Story:
  • Descriptive sentences objectively address the “wh” questions: where the situation takes place, who is involved, what they are doing, and why they may be doing it.
  • Perspective sentences provide details about the emotions and thoughts of others.
  • Directive sentences suggest desired responses tailored to the individual.

Sometimes our class sits on the carpet. (descriptive) We sit on the carpet to listen to stories and for group lessons. (descriptive) My friends are trying hard to listen so they can enjoy the story or learn from the lessons. (perspective) It can be hard for them to listen if someone is noisy or not sitting still. (perspective) I will try to sit still and stay quiet during our time on the carpet. (directive)

social stories cont
Social Stories (Cont.)

Guidelines for Implementation:

  • Introduce stories as a reinforcing activity.
  • Share common language of the story with the team to ensure consistency.
  • May read before the social situation happens.
  • Make reading a routine (e.g., one time per day to start).
  • Monitor effectiveness-if no change in behavior re-write portions of the story.
  • Fade over time or introduce a new story with more advanced behaviors within the skill set.
what is a comic strip conversation established treatment nsr
What is a Comic Strip Conversation? Established Treatment NSR.
  • Developed by Carol Gray to assist individuals with ASD to develop greater social understanding.
  • Provides visual representations of the different levels of communication that take place in a conversation, using symbols (thinking bubbles and thought bubbles), stick figure drawings and color.
  • Having the parts of the conversation visually presented, some of the abstract aspects of social communication (e.g. recognizing the feelings and intentions of others) are made more concrete and are therefore easier to understand.
what is a comic strip conversation
What is a Comic Strip Conversation?
  • Can be used to convey important information or for problem-solving and conflict resolution, to learn social skills, to follow simple classroom rules, to communicate perspectives, feelings and ideas.
  • The effectiveness can be enhanced by incorporating a child’s favorite cartoon character (ex. SpongeBob, Superman, etc.) into the illustration.
comic strip conversations
Comic Strip Conversations
  • The more involved the child is in creating his or her own comic strip conversation; the more helpful it will be in future situations.
  • Make a book of comic strip frames, and after leading the child through several examples, have them create the conversations and solutions on their own.
  • Keep the conversations and use them as a guide and reinforcement if the same, or similar, social situation occurs again
what does a comic strip conversation look like
What Does a Comic Strip Conversation Look Like?
  • Use symbols to represent social interactions and abstract aspects of conversation, and color to represent the emotional content of a statement or message (Gray, 1994). 
  • A description of the event that caused the problem
  • Feelings and thoughts of everyone involved
  • A solution to the problem and ideas on how to avoid it in the future
  • Appropriate symbols (stick figures, smiley faces, thought bubbles)
  • Colors used to express feelings
conversation colors outlined by gray 1984
Conversation Colors Outlined by Gray (1984)
  • Green: Good ideas, happy, friendly
  • Red: Bad ideas, anger, unfriendly
  • Blue: Sad, uncomfortable
  • Yellow: Frightened
  • Black: Facts, truth
  • Orange: Questions
  • Purple: Proud
  • Color Combination: Confusion

I think I will ask that kid to play.

He called me kid, he doesn’t like me.

”Hey kid, do you want to play?”

Don’t call me kid!

Why is he kicking me? I just wanted to play with him!

I’m not a kid!

“Don’t call me kid!


example cont
Example Cont.
  • Tom called me “kid” because he didn’t know my name, but wanted to play with me. The next time Tom or someone calls me “kid” I’ll tell them my name and that I don’t like to be called “kid”. I’ll apologize to Tom and tell him my name is A.J. I will also tell him that I don’t like being called “kid” and to please not call me that again.
how to implement
How to Implement
  • Make small talk. Before discussing the problem at hand, engage the student in a light-hearted discussion that includes drawing. The purpose is to build confidence, likeability, and trust between the adult and the student.
  • Draw the situation, using leading questions. Encourage the student to use stick figures and communication bubbles to draw scenes and actions from the situation or problem. (If the child can’t draw, he or she can direct the drawing.) Use questions to gently lead the student into including important information and details into the comic strip. For example: Where are you? What happened? What did you or others say and think?
  • Share perspectives. While drawing, use this opportunity to listen to the student’s views and naturally share some personal insights about people and social situations. The objective is to “achieve a balance between gathering insights into the student’s perspective, while sharing accurate social information” (Gray, 1994).
how to implement64
How to Implement
  • Provide structure: Gray (2004) suggests drawing boxes around different scenes to help organize the sequence of events. If the situation happens to be reported or drawn out of order, review the situation with the student and number the boxes according to the accurate sequence in which the events occurred.
  • Summarize: Review the comic strip, highlighting the key points of the situation to ensure that the student and adult have the same understanding of the situation.
  • Identify a new solution: Along with the student, identify possible solutions to the problem and discuss the advantages or disadvantages of each. The resulting list of possible solutions is options for the student to use the next time the situation occurs.
video modeling what is it established treatment nsr
Video Modeling-What is it? Established Treatment NSR
  • Video modeling is a teaching technique which involves having a student watch a model perform a target skill on a video tape and then practice the skill that he or she observed.
  • Used to teach a wide variety of skills including daily living, conversation, play, or academic skills.
  • Strong research base.
why is video modeling effective
Why is Video Modeling Effective?
  • There are several key characteristics of children with autism that favor the use of video modeling over other learning techniques. A study entitled Video Modeling: Why Does It Work for Children with Autism? (Corbett & Abdullah, 2005) lists these key characteristics:
  • over-selective attention (making them very prone to distraction)
  • restricted field of focus
  • preference for visual stimuli and visually cued instruction
  • avoidance of face-to-face interactions
  • ability to process visual information more readily than verbal information
video modeling
Video Modeling
  • Research shows little difference with using peers or adults in the video.
  • Tapes should be short.
  • Have the student watch the tape a number of times and then prompt them to engage in the behavior.
  • To increase generalization, make videos of the target skills in different settings, etc. (e.g., shopping skills-show video of individual shopping in multiple stores or buying multiple items).
contingency mapping nsr established treatment
Contingency Mapping- NSR Established Treatment
  • A Contingency map depicts the antecedent that triggers the behavior, the problem behavior, the consequence that follows if the behavior occurs, the desired alternative behavior, and last, the consequence of the behavior.

I Earn points and

go out on

Fun Friday

I ask for a


I ask for


I feel frustrated

with my school


I put my head

on my desk

I use impolite


I loose points and

miss out on Fun


additional references
Additional References
  • Buron, K.D. (2007). A 5 Is Against a Law! Social Boundaries: Straight Up! Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.
  • Crooke, P. & Winner, M.G. (2009). Socially Curious and Curiously Social. San Jose, CA. Think Social Publishing, Inc.
  • Madrigal, S. & Winner, M.G. (2008). Superflex… A Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum. San Jose, CA. Think Social Publishing, Inc.
  • Winner, M.G.(2002). Inside Out: What Makes the Person Social Cognitive Deficits Tick? San Jose, CA: Michelle Garcia Winner.
  • Winner, M.G.(2007). Social Behavior Mapping. Connecting Behavior, Emotions, and Consequences Across the Day. San Jose, CA: Michelle Garcia Winner.
  • Winner, M.G.(2008). Think Social! A Social Thinking Curriculum for School-Age Students. San Jose, CA: Michelle Garcia Winner.
  • Winner, M.G.(2005). Worksheets! For Teaching Social Thinking and Related Skills. San Jose, CA: Michelle Garcia Winner.
  • McLaughlin, K, Topper, K, Lindert, J (2009). Sexuality Education for Adults with Developmental Disabilities. Williston, Vt. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Education and Training Department.