Promoting Social Development for Students with Autism

Background information on four approaches that have commonly been used to promote social development in children and youth with autism.

Promoting Social Development for Students with Autism

Excerpted from Social Skills for Students with Autism.

Four approaches have commonly been used to promote social development in children and youth with autism:

Direct Skill Instruction for Students with Autism

Antecedent Prompting Procedures for Students with Autism

Peer-initiation Strategies for Students with Autism

Peer Tutoring for Students with Autism

For individuals with autism, the development of reciprocal social interactions and relationships can be conceptualized as an interrelationship among a number of relevant variables. These include the number, type, setting, and distribution of peer social interactions. That is, the techniques used to increase social competence should:

  • Yield interactions at a rate similar to that found in the child's environment
  • Include cooperative components
  • Take advantage of age-appropriateactivities

Efforts should also be made to generalize social interactionsacross settings and persons. Specifically, these social behaviors should be related to the array of settings and social opportunities available to individuals with autism, which include friendships, work, leisure/family, school, and other casual social contacts.

An additional factor that should be considered is the social validity of the interactions that are fostered by various interventions. Within this context, social validity refers to procedures whose outcomes are viewed as important and beneficial to the individual with autism, as well as his or her nondisabled peers, parents, school, and community. The central concern is the social importance of the behavior change to all who are affected. In other words, do social interaction variables facilitatebetter friendships or relationships between individuals withautism and the important people in their environment?

Recent literature suggests that there are four distinct paths to promoting thesocial development of school-age children and youth with autism. Oneof the most intrusive procedures is direct instruction of relevant social behaviors, which relies on the overt manipulation of task-analyzed skills to promote higher frequencies of social behavior.

A secondtype of intervention involves antecedent prompting or teacher mediationof social interactions. The most typical form of this techniqueis delivery of an initiation prompt by the teacher, followed by reinforcement (e.g., attention or praise) to the child with autism for successful engagement in positive social interaction with a peer.

A third procedure is known as peer initiation. This processinvolves teaching socially competent peers to initiate interactions with individuals with autism. It not only structures interactions between socially competent students and those with autism, it also provides additional skill development opportunities for children and youth with autism.

Considerations for Social Interaction with Autistic Students

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