Strategies to improve the social skills of children with ASD

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Autism is a word derived from the Greek word autos meaning self. It was coined by a psychiatrist known as Eugen Bleuler, who used the term in the description of an aspect of schizophrenia in which an individual withdraws completely from the outside world into him/ herself. The Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are characterized by three main impairments, these are social relationships, social communications and imaginative thought (Sicile-Kira, 2004). The impairment of social relationships may entail the individual not understanding nonverbal behavior, may not develop peer relationships or may seem aloof and indifferent to other people. Impairment of social communication may entail delay in development of speech, may entail the lack of ability to initiate or sustain a conversation. The impairment of imaginative thought, on the other hand, may entail nonfunctional and inflexible routines. These impairments pose a big threat to a students success in school, socially, quality of life and emotional development, especially during childhood and adolescence stages (Watkins et al., 2014). They also cause a big chance of withdrawal and isolation of the victims of the society and hence they enjoy life less. Moreover, the ASD condition can turn one into a stalker due to the withdrawal from the society and due to all the emotional distress and pressure that come with the condition (Post, Haymes, Storey, Loughrey, & Campbell, 2012). They therefore require a quick address to the victims so that they can be healed from the syndrome.

Social relationships and communication can both be addressed by initiating activities which will encourage interactions between individuals with the ASD disorder. In these strategies, teachers and participants are the main assets in that they are the ones to train peers on the proper interactions by providing visual aids, feedback, role-playing, verbal explanations, modeling and prompting to train the peers (Vernon, 2014). Firstly Peer-Mediated Intervention Strategies can be employed. In this case the individuals are engaged in peer initiation activities such as initiating interactions during games and engaging them in interactive activities during vacations (Watkins et al., 2014).

Secondly, the individuals should be engaged in promoting and reinforcing procedures in which the individuals are taken through activities that require their verbal or gestural participation. Here scripted phrases can be employed and the individuals commended for every appropriately used phrase (Humphrey & Symes, 2011). The individuals are made to engage in play activities with anticipated praise for any attempt of participation. They can also be taught on how to easily initiate and respond to conversations by participating in plays and this will help reinforce their communication skills.

A third way can be the placing of the individualstrategic places like common tables during taking of meals like lunch, placing them in strategic social clubs for those with similar interests such that they can interact and share their insights and expand on their common interests. This strategy can be referred to as the proximity approach.

Fourthly, intervention activities must be applied so as to impact good social skills. This entails: group-based social skills programs where a therapist, facilitator or a teacher conducts a group training session for the individuals with the syndrome on how to improve their social skills which; peer-mediated interventions which employs a peer as the trainee for the social skills to the participants; activity-based interventions employs participation of the ASD individuals in either collaborative tasks or exercises which result to team building and hence strengthening social skills; computer-based interventions employ a virtual reality training programs through the computer and through video modeling; and social stories which basically employs the use of short narratives that would be read to the lower grade pupils thus impacting a positive behavioral change with a corresponding social impact (Tanner, Hand, OToole, & Lane, 2015). These strategies would certainly lead to elimination of negative interactions and would impact positive interactions with the added benefits of creating friendships.

Notably, some children have a high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders which leads to deteriorated social skills. They are highly susceptible to lack of proper non-verbal responses such as eye contact, gesture, facial expression, voice tone and interpersonal space. Moreover, they experience a lot of misinterpretation of emotions which would lead to them developing a character trait if insensitivity to others emotions at different times which results in heightened anxiety and even depression. A special program referred to as the Secret Agent Society (SAS) can be employed for the primary school children aged between eight and twelve years. The program incorporates social skills, learning achieved through a computer game, small group sessions, parent training sessions and teacher handouts. The program has been proved to have a great positive impact on the social skills of those who undergo the program. The program can be initiated at individual levels and thus becomes even more effective. Additionally, the program ensures that the social skills improvements are maintained by offering a five to six month follow up session on the then ASD individual (Tan, Mazzucchelli, & Beaumont, 2015).

The pupils with ASD can also undergo a training aimed at improving their social skills by undergoing an Emotional-Based Social Skills Training (ESSBT) which aims at improving the emotional development and emotional intelligence for the child with ASD. It has comprehensive curriculum which has multiple sessions lasting for 90 minutes each. The program occurs in conjunction with the Emotions Development Questionnaire (EDQ) which monitors the emotional development for ESSBT program, thus sustaining its operations with assured efficiency and effectiveness (Ratcliffe, Wong, Dossetor, & Hayes, 2014).

The EBSST contains a curriculum which engages the teacher, parent and the individual affected by the Autism Syndrome Disorder. The first session involves assessing and identifying emotions where happiness, sadness, worry and anger are the main emotions studied incorporating their impact on a person. The session is crowned up by linking the emotions with situational and body cues. The second session involves highlighting emotional problems and establishing obliging solutions for each including the understanding of other peoples emotions. The third session is generally about tactics on how to tackle and manage emotions by therapeutic measures such as behavioral strategies, emotion regulation and cognitive strategies such as changing unhelpful thoughts to helpful thoughts. The final session entails skills consolidation including training on how to monitor and evaluate oneself concerning the application of the acquired social skills. The sessions also have parental cognitive behavior therapy and train the parents on how to be the emotional coaches these sessions are also provided to the teachers. It also offers general psycho-education sessions (Ratcliffe, Wong, Dossetor, & Hayes, 2014).

Conclusively, primary school children with the ASD condition require special attention so as to get out of the cocoon of the inferiority complex that is inflicted by this condition. It requires the contribution of the community at large to enable them overcome the effect of the condition. In other words, only the combined effort of the teachers, the parents and the general public can help an ASD individual acquire the right skills which are necessary for life to run smoothly or rather for them to be able to fit in and survive day to day life. A good social base is paramount for a bright future of the any person and any help to the ASD affected is an investment into the future of that particular child.

References

Humphrey, N. & Symes, W. (2011). Peer interaction patterns among adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) in mainstream school settings. Autism, 15(4), 397-419. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1362361310387804Post, M., Haymes, L., Storey, K., Loughrey, T., & Campbell, C. (2012). Understanding Stalking Behaviors by Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Recommended Prevention Strategies for School Settings. J Autism Dev Disord, 44(11), 2698-2706. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10803-012-1712-8Ratcliffe, B., Wong, M., Dossetor, D., & Hayes, S. (2014). Teaching socialemotional skills to school-aged children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A treatment versus control trial in 41 mainstream schools. Research In Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8(12), 1722-1733. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2014.09.010Sicile-Kira, C. (2004). Autism spectrum disorders. New York: Berkeley Pub. Group. Google Books. Rtrieved 1 JUNE 2016 from https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=1TR6XFQymbgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+autism+spectrum&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=the%20autism%20spectrum&f=falseTan, Y., Mazzucchelli, T., & Beaumont, R. (2015). An Evaluation of Individually Delivered Secret Agent Society Social Skills Program for Children with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Pilot Study. Behav. Change, 32(03), 159-174. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/bec.2015.7Tanner, K., Hand, B., OToole, G., & Lane, A. (2015). Effectiveness of Interventions to Improve Social Participation, Play, Leisure, and Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors in People With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review. Am J Occup Ther, 69(5), 6905180010p1. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.017806Vernon, T. (2014). Fostering a Social Child with Autism: A Moment-By-Moment Sequential Analysis of an Early Social Engagement Intervention. J Autism Dev Disord, 44(12), 3072-3082. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2173-zWatkins, L., OReilly, M., Kuhn, M., Gevarter, C., Lancioni, G., Sigafoos, J., & Lang, R. (2014). A Review of Peer-Mediated Social Interaction Interventions for Students with Autism in Inclusive Settings. J Autism Dev Disord, 45(4), 1070-1083. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2264-x

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