Social skills training is particularly important for children on the Autism Spectrum. Children with Asperger's Syndrome or Autism tend to have specific difficulties picking up social cues from their environment. Typically developing children learn from their social environment what is socially acceptable behaviour and how to interact appropriately with others.
Children on the Autism Spectrum tend to have the following difficulties, which make it difficult for them to learn appropriate social behaviours:
little or no eye contact, making it difficult to perceive and interpret non-verbal language (e.g., facial expressions)
no "Theory of Mind", where a person is aware that other people have a mind that is interpreting the social interaction and feeling/responding to everything that occurs in that social interaction. Thus the child with Autism tends to have little/no empathy for others, which leads to difficulties in social situations -
little or no interest in others or interacting with others
obsessions / restricted interests. They may be absorbed in a restricted interest, instead of engaging with others.
delayed/disordered language skills
Pragmatics is the area of Speech Pathology that is involved in teaching social skills to children. Pragmatics involves the social rules that govern social interactions, e.g., eye contact, topic initiation, topic maintenance in a conversation.
SOCIAL SKILLS TRAINING
Speech Pathologists look at Pragmatic Skills (Social Skills) in a Speech Pathology Assessment and determine if there is a need for further social skills training. Children on the Autism Spectrum tend to require direct instruction to improve their Pragmatic skills. That is, they may require social stories to directly teach them how to interact in each particular social situation or teach them how others are feeling in social interactions. They may also require visual support to help them attend to tasks/ complete tasks so they can reach their learning potential.