It can sometimes be difficult to identify which types of social skills to help youth with autism spectrum disorder to develop. When selecting social skills to target in intervention (such as in ABA services), it is important to consider what is in the best interest of the client. Instead of considering how to make the client become more like the general population or working on social skills that you or someone else thinks is important, interventionists should focus on what is going to be most helpful for the client.
For instance, a teen with ASD does not automatically need to be given the goal of making five friends (with objective markers of what that means). Instead, focusing on making friends in intervention should be carefully considered and approached in a way that suits the client.
Does the client want more friends? Would making a friend or more friends help the client access more reinforcement – from the client’s perspective, not someone else’s? Would focusing on making friends improve the client’s overall quality of life or could it lead to depression or anxiety and ultimately reduce their quality of life?
Every person, including every person with an ASD diagnosis, is different. So, social skills important for their development should be individualized.
With that being said, we will present some general ideas of social skills that can help some adolescents with ASD below. Consider these ideas as you look for the right social skills to target in intervention as you work with a teen with autism.
- Initiating conversations
- Maintaining conversations
- Speaking up in a small group
- Making friends
- Understanding sarcasm
- Protecting one’s own personal space and boundaries
- Respecting other’s personal space and boundaries
- Navigating get-togethers
- Handling inappropriate treatment from peers
- Appropriate communication through texting
- Social media related behaviors
As a reminder, individualize social skills that are addressed in treatment to the individual, but use the list above as a guide for coming up with ideas that would be beneficial to the client.