- Category: Blog
Inside: Autism Classroom's guest blog series, showcasing with articles/blogs, supports and resources from various educators.
The holidays are quickly approaching and while many of us are already thinking about what food we will serve, what family members we will visit and what gifts we will purchase, some individuals are trying to figure out how to best help their sensory sensitive child with the transition to winter clothing.
Winter clothing can feel heavier and less comfortable for children who have sensory sensitivities. Just think about the heavy coats, scarves, thicker pants, layers, scratchier textures, etc. that typically comes along with the transition to winter clothing. But just because the transition may be trickier does not mean it's impossible! Here are some ways to help children with the transition to winter clothing.
Prepare Ahead of Time!
Depending on where you live, the change in weather could happen in what seems to be overnight! But this does not mean you should expect your child to tolerate the change in clothing so drastically. Start preparing your child ahead of time by discussing the change in seasons and what this means in terms of change in clothing. Read books and watch videos that help them get their minds ready for the change.
Practice wearing various winter articles of clothing to test out and see what your child tolerates. You may slowly introduce new articles of clothing by playing games and having the child to act out or tell you how they feel when wearing various clothing. You may slowly introduce one new article at a time. Also, practice on days when you are less busy and not trying to rush out of the house! When introducing such change, you want the environment to be as relaxed as possible.
Purchase Sensory Friendly Clothing!
We live in a time where you can actually purchase clothing that has been made for children with sensory needs! Since winter clothing may be worn for longer periods of time, you want to make sure that the clothing closest to their skin is the most comfortable. You also want to make sure that if the child is wearing layers, the layers are easy to remove if necessary.
Winter is a great time of year that offers so many exciting new opportunities such as sledding, playing in the snow and holiday gatherings. Sometimes participation in such activities is enough motivation for children to want to wear their winter clothing. So encourage your child to wear winter clothing so that they can stay warm and safe during such fun activities.
The proprioceptive sense is one of the “hidden” senses in our bodies. We cannot visually “see” it but it is felt and recognized through the input we provide to our muscles and joints. When we work our muscles and joints we are providing our proprioceptive systems with feedback that help our bodies with regulation and body awareness. Providing proprioceptive input such as joint compressions or “body squeezes”, tight hugs, vibration and heavy work activities can help to regulate and calm your child’s nervous system which can help to prepare their body for the wearing of winter clothing.
Have fun implementing these tips to help your child have an easier time with transitioning into the upcoming winter months!
- Category: Blog
Social Skills Training for Students with Autism
Inside: Utilizing peers, using scenerios and social skills role play, goal setting and using videos for social skills instruction.
This page includes affiliate links. Learn more here.
Social Skills Training (SST) refers to evidence-based programs specially designed to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn to navigate social interactions. SST programs are both unique and effective because they keep in mind the unique needs of the individual engaging in the training, leaving room to skip modules and concepts that are not helpful and emphasize ones that are. This article will discuss a few key types of SST methods that can be used individually or in conjunction to help students with ASD improve their social skills.
Utilize peers in SST.
Peer-mediated instruction and intervention (PMII) is an effective SST tool that centers behavior modeling into the teaching process. Peers (typically ones without ASD or another related diagnosis) are specially briefed on how to act. They take on the role of a mentor or tutor to a student with ASD. From there, the peer mentor works closely with the student they are assigned to, all the while completing tasks, playing, and interacting socially. The benefit of this approach is that it takes an SST program beyond words on a page or content in a video module. Not only are students with ASD able to practice the skills they are trying to master, but they can also build connections and learn to navigate social settings in a hands-on way.
Bring scenarios to life.
Role-playing scenarios or writing out the elements of a real or hypothetical interaction are an excellent way to lock in certain socialization skills. It is especially important to know that maintaining variety in the SST program is paramount to keep content fresh and keeping students engaged. Make it relate to their life and to real issues that they are dealing with. For this reason, social skills role play alone is unlikely to give all relevant skills to a student engaging in SST. They will need other supports. Social stories, for example, are most powerful when combined with other SST methods.
Practice deliberate goal-setting.
SST can be arduous if not adequately tailored to each individual student. With such an expansive universe of goals to master, SST can quickly become boring and repetitive if an overly generic program is followed. Those helping a child through SST can avoid this very real problem by setting deliberate goals that are compatible with the child’s skills, needs, and interests. As an example, not every module needs to be completed. In fact, some students have a better SST experience if certain modules are skipped. It simply comes down to understanding the needs of the student and tailoring the curriculum to their needs.
Model behaviors by example or video.
Last but not least, teaching through social skills videos or by example or by modeling is a very effective SST method. Coupled with repetition of the social skill just reviewed, this method quickly locks in important skills in a digestible and accessible way. Some videos for social skills can be found on this page.
Because SST is rooted in evidence, there are several takeaways that make the training more effective. One constant of this kind of training, is making important concepts as concrete, simple, and structured as possible. This can be done by taking advantage of the variety of methods described above, as well as by building training routines and taking care to create a program that suits the unique needs of the student. Likewise, keeping students engaged is certainly a hurdle when teaching social skills, but it can be done (see our tips here), particularly by keeping trainings fresh and blocking out time for some “real-world” practice of learned skills.
- Category: Blog
Why Social Skills Are Important
In an educational setting, it can be all too easy to focus on building academic skills alone. After all, some think that learning how to read, write, and problem solve is all a student with autism needs to succeed, right?
That couldn’t be further from the truth. While teaching academic skills can greatly aid in a student’s future, it’s arguably more important for a student to develop social skills. After all, how could you find a great job if you didn’t know how to network and how could you have made it through rough days without the support of your friends?
When many people with autism already struggle with developing good social skills, it can sometimes be even harder for students with autism to navigate this difficult realm. That’s why it’s so crucial that educators and parents begin teaching key social skills. Here you will see the top 3 reasons why direct social skill instruction and intervention can benefit students with autism. Also, why social skills are important for students to learn as part of their daily instruction.
Contrary to the stereotype that people with autism don’t have any desire to strike up a social life, many on the spectrum do want social interaction, even as young children. However, this need is a difficult thing to navigate for some people. Even if they want to, sometime not knowing what to do or not remembering what to do can be an issue. It is difficult for students to develop a foundation in social skills when they are younger if it is not being taught.
If they did get some social skills instruction, the hope is that there might be better peer interactions, reduced problem behaviors, and even better academic performance. Overall, probably the biggest benefit is that they can build up a better support system of friends, family, mentors, and co-workers to help them as they navigate the challenges of life. Knowing when to ask for help and how to create better relationships is key for anyone to succeed in today’s world. Any social skills improvement system will include a good support system.
Many times, it is hard for someone without autism truly understand autism when we’re looking from the outside in. Often, this leads us to take our social skills completely for granted, where we’re not consciously aware of our ability to instantaneously interpret social cues, craft our responses, and intuitively know the world’s unwritten social rules. Imagine just how difficult it would be to not understand how to process your complex emotions or if you completely blanked on what to do when you got embarrassed or jealous. Think of the times when we try to understand how the people in our lives are feeling, and then picture just how much harder this would be for people with autism.
By being taught various social skills, students on the spectrum may experience far fewer gaps in socializing and lower levels of stress related to social situations. Some individuals are fine with that and others might want to engage a bit more. However, they are having some trouble reading social cues. For those that do, we truly understand the importance of building these skills.
As you might know yourself, life isn’t one big social script that you can easily follow and succeed. Throughout the process of growing up, you might have internalized multiple social scripts for a ton of social settings that a person with autism might not intuitively understand. That’s what social complexity is. For instance, think about the way you greet people. How you say hello to a child at the mall might differ from how you greet your best friend. This extends beyond greetings to eye contact, gestures, empathy, and far more. Introducing a person with autism to the social complexity of many social situations can help them better understand what to do in such situations. But that takes time. It also takes practice. You may even try some social skills role play to help work through a potential social situation. Keeping in mind that each trial will be a little different and that can provide a glimpse into social complexity. Here are some social skills strategies.
So whether if you are working on social skills for kids, social skills activities for teens, or social skills for adults, just allowing the space to discuss this topic is huge. Without a doubt, social skills are needed for a person on the spectrum to succeed not only in the classroom, but far beyond. It’s integral for their mental health and their relationships with classmates, family members, co-workers, and friends. By incorporating Social Skills Training into your classroom and learning about important interventions and instructional methods, you could begin to make a big difference in the lives of those on the spectrum in their classroom, home, workspace and community.
More Articles on Social Skills
Using Social Skills Worksheets to Craft a Social Skills Classroom Program
- Category: Blog
Using Worksheets on Social Skills to Craft a Super Classroom Curriculum
Inside: Social Skills worksheets for autism support classrooms, pre-k, elementary classrooms and teens. Social skills curriculum ideas and social skills printables preview.
This pages includes affiliate links.
The IEP meeting was going as planned. The topic emerged. Social Skills. Everyone knew the student needed more practice. Everyone nodded, sure, this was an area of focus. Everyone was sympathetic, but waved their hands in surrender mode to make sure to note it was not their area of expertise. And all you could think was “Yes I know need to teach this, but just tell me how.”
Placing your hands over your mouth in surprise, raising your arms to greet a cherished friend or loved one and holding up one finger to signal that you need a minute, are all cues that are an important part of our daily lives. Social skills are the rules and norms that set the foundation for interacting with people, places, and the world around us.
Social skills are important for children because they learn how to keep their hands at their side while standing next to someone or resist that impulse to grab the toy from a peer, by the lessons they are taught.
Remember the little kid on social media sassing an adult telling Linda to listen? He picked up his tone and words somewhere. Throughout our development we build up our social skills and norms through watching family members or friends.
However, for students with autism, building up skills in this area can be like climbing a mountain with little to no equipment.
Children with autism want to build friendships and engage with their peers, but are not always independently following the model. Younger children are still in the beginning stages of figuring out social situations. Each group can enhance their social skills with strategies, practice and a bit of support using social skills worksheets.
It is time to gather your mountain climbing gear and start sharing.
Teaching Social Skills the Direct Way
Social skills are an essential part of classroom life as well. Students need to know how to interact socially throughout the school day. Break out the pencils, bingo markers or whatever writing utensil will not result in a “clean up on aisle 5” to start providing them with opportunities to learn about social skills.
The Social Skills Printables lay out the skills on paper in a direct, easy to follow way.
Golden nuggets for students who are on the autism spectrum and have developmental delays. Silver dollars for students in preschool and in primary grades who are learning about social interactions. Priceless to the teacher trying to figure out “how am I going to teach this.”
Deliberately addressing one hill at a time can lead to improvement and advancement up that mountain. The printables are a hands-on, tangible, already-done-for-you, way to do that. Tack them onto a lesson to supplement any curriculum or highlight them each day as discussion starter for developing more effective social skills.
What Teachers are Saying
The printables have over 2,800 positive reviews.
“I love this resource, not just for students with ASD, but students with a variety of diagnoses and learning differences. There is an enormous variety of activities and options, so there is absolutely something for everyone. It has been an excellent resource in individual and group sessions. I have successfully used it to reinforce lessons and work on individual IEP goals with students.”
“This is one of my best purchases on TPT. I had my group make a Social Skills Binder and they brought it to speech group. We would do an activity around a work sheet. They would build up their binder each week and they loved going back through the sheets on their own as a resource to remember the skills we learned.”
“I love this resource for my students that are on the spectrum. I really enjoy using the interest inventory and my students love choosing themselves what type of positive reinforcement they like to receive.”
A Peek Inside: The 4 Sections of These Social Skills Worksheets
SECTION 1: SELF-MANAGEMENT
Teaching self-management skills to students with autism is extremely important because it helps them to understand and regulate their own behaviors. It ranks in importance right up there with safety, encouraging communication and having access to reams of Velcro ™ if you are teaching in an autism support classroom.
Within these social skills worksheets autism support can be tailored to activities geared around developing each student’s plan for managing behaviors in situations like making a mistake and understanding appropriate options they can take during situations. There are also reinforcement assessments that allow the students to point, mark or circle their likes and dislikes. Open your eyes wide and tilt that ear to see (and hear) what they choose so that you can to get to know each student. Here are the pages that are included:
- Self-Management Checklist
- My Own Self-Monitoring Checklist
- Reinforcement Assessment 1
- Reinforcement Assessment 2
- Reinforcement Assessment 3
- Information is “POWER” Cards
- It’s Ok to Make a Mistake
- Social Skills
SECTION 2: EMOTIONS
Understanding and identifying emotions in themselves and in others will help set the foundation for building social skills. When we look at a person’s face and read their expressions, it helps us navigate more successfully in relationship building.
Emotions are a challenging topic for children on the autism spectrum; they might struggle to identify the emotions in themselves and others.
You can help by using visual supports like a picture board or flashcards to teach different types of emotions.
But more than just teaching children hands-on, “show me the money,” making faces in the mirror identification, they need strategies in handling their emotions. These printables will provide them with examples of smiling, frowning, surprised faces and also ideas for when they are having those feelings. You can use the worksheets to highlight situations such as taking turns, working together, sharing space, and also attempting the ever present task of getting that volume level in the classroom lower. Here are the pages that are included:
- Match to Same -Emotions
- Point to the Emotion Cards
- Identify Emotions
- Emotional States
- Emotions – Match to the Same
- Tell this Story
- What Are They Feeling?
- I Need a Break Lesson
- Working Around Others
- Taking Turns
- My Turn Your Turn
- Sharing Space-Color by Code
- Sharing Vocabulary
- Volume Control 1
- Volume Control 2
- Trace Words
- Working With Others - Word FIND
SECTION 3: SELF-AWARENESS
Self-awareness helps students with autism and related special needs reflect on their feelings, navigate through difficult situations, and develop effective strategies for self-regulation. When students have a clear understanding of their own emotions and actions, they may make better choices that create success in and out of the classroom setting.
Sometimes students are bothered by things and they cannot explain the feeling to us.
Think about ways to allow your students to tell (using pointing, marking or circling) about the things that hurt their eyes, ears, skin, nose, and feelings. When thinking about what they do not like, or what upsets them, students have a better understanding of themselves. Which, in turn, can help them share their story with others. Here are the pages that are included:
- About Me...These Things Hurt My Ears
- About ME…These Things Hurt My Eyes
- About ME...These Things Hurt My Skin
- About ME…These Smells Hurt My Nose
- About ME...These Things Hurt My Feelings
- Making a Mistake
- Not Getting What You Want
- Calming Down
- Coping with Challenges
- Self-Awareness Words
- Describe a Feeling
- What Is He Saying?
- Emotion Apps
- Friends Graphic Organizer
- What is a Friend?
SECTION 4: COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS
Children of all different ages and abilities rely on communication to express their needs and wants. When students have effective communication skills it helps with learning, perceived behavior, and socializing with others. Autistic children have a varied range of skills when it comes to communication. Some can communicate well, some have trouble communicating and some stand at the door completely decked out in a coat and shoes until you fully understand that it is time to go get those french fries they have been wanting.
Giving students opportunities to sign, act out or practice communicating helps them to better develop these skills. Situational practice such as role-playing or model examples of communication might work for them.
It is also crucial to add activities that show how to handle when they want something or do not want something, how to use certain words to communication, and how and when to say (or sign) thank you.
In addition to teaching communication skills to individual students, many of these printable pages are useful when teaching social skills group activities. Here are the pages that are included:
- What Do I Like the Best?
- Social Skills Vocabulary
- Saying Thank you
- When to Say Thank You
- Class Rules Narrative
- Imitate Others
- I Want This, What Do I Do?
- I Don’t Want This, What Do I Do?
- Repeat, More & Again
- Game Rules
Combine Resources to Target More Skills
The social skills printables are downloadable and available now as a single packet or as a bundle that addresses even more skills with Behavior Skills Printables, Imitation Skills Printables, Play Skills Printables, and More.
When used as a bundle, you can actively develop a classroom program that targets many of the social skills that students need. The year-long targets resource works alongside of the Social Skills printables bundle and the Personal Life Skills bundle (get separate or get them together in the MEGA Bundle here) to give ideas on making a self-created social skills curriculum and tells which worksheets from the printables to use each day. They also have some ideas for some teacher created materials as well.
While climbing social skills trail, students often need repetition. You can keep dusting off these social skills worksheets for kids in special education or general education, as often as needed. In some cases, go over them again to help your students reinforce these lessons.
Hopefully, that mountain just got a little bit more manageable.
Some Sample Pages:
- Creating a Classroom Program for Students with Autism - Part 1
- Creating a Classroom Program for Students with Autism - Part 2
- 5 Strategies to Teach Social Skills for Autism Support Classes
- Social Skills Training for Students with Autism
- Why Social Skills Are Important
- AutismClassroom.com's List of Social Skills Strategies
- Category: Blog
Summer Social Skills Activities for Kids with Autism When Summer Camp is Not an Option
Inside: Activities to consider to build social interaction for autism social skills enhancement, to help kids with autism over the summer.
This page contains affiliate links.
Summer can be a challenging season for families with children who have autism and/or sensory processing disorders. That’s because the change in schedule and lack of classroom time can leave a lot of the day open, unstructured, and lacking in social interaction. When we think about social interaction in autism, we have to consider the amount of planning on the part of the caretakers. It can take time. Planning ahead and having activities ready for your child can help develop their social skills even when school is out. Let’s explore some summer activities that can encourage social time for autistic kids.
Social Skills Workbooks
Workbooks and printable worksheets can be an excellent resource for home use during the summer. Having a set time each day for sitting down with a social skills workbook gives your child time to learn in a way that’s similar to what they’re used to in the classroom. Worksheets could be useful for visual learners and may work sometimes for children who are non-verbal. While you can purchase workbooks, there are also many worksheets on social skills that are free printable pages related to social skills available online, as well.
Warm summer days provide the perfect opportunity to keep cool by playing with water. Find local splash pads to visit and meet up with a friend. Plan a playdate at a pool. You don’t need to have a swimming pool to entertain your child, either. Simple items like buckets, measuring spoons, and plastic cups can keep kids busy for hours as they explore pouring, dumping, and measuring. A water balloon toss or a water balloon fight with a friend can be big fun. Buckets with pre-filled water balloons can be set up at various distances and the game can be played socially distanced, if needed. Always stay close by and supervise water play, even if it’s only a small amount.
Playtime With New Fidget Toys
The increasing popularity of fidget toys makes it easier to find new and interesting options for your child. Amazon has many to choose from in different colors, sizes, and designs. Set up a playdate and present the kids with a few new fidget toys to play with. They can take turns, share, and show one another how the toys work. Fidget toys have the added benefit of being stress relievers, so if your child is feeling anxious about a playdate, centering it on these types of toys can be a big help. AutismClassroom.com has a new social interaction support resource using fidgets as the main star!
When thinking of things for your autistic child to do and enjoy, sports may not be one that comes to mind. That’s because many team sports can be overwhelming for kids with sensory processing issues. Large groups, loud voices, and chaotic movements can be stressful. However, there are many individual sports that autistic kids can thrive at. Gathering in a small group to do things like bike riding, bowling, tennis, horseback riding, mini-golfing, and even jogging allows for social interaction in a more relaxed setting. Some kids may like to kick a soccer ball or make your own goal posts and have a soccer match. These are the types of activities that don’t require a commitment, either, so you aren’t obligated to join a league or sign up for a team. You can simply get together with a few friends for an hour or two.
As the parent of an autistic child, you may be looking forward to the long summer days. Being proactive about developing their social skills and providing fun social skills activities is the best way to help them progress when classroom time isn’t available. Here are 30 fun things to do. This site has more ideas for summer activities.
By thinking ahead and putting together plans with others, you can create opportunities for social interactions that can be both fun and meaningful!
If you are looking for more information about social skills, try one of these links:
Using Social Skills Worksheets to Craft a Social Skills Classroom Program
5 Strategies to Teach Social Skills for Autism Support Classes
Social Skills Training for Students with Autism
Why Social Skills Are Important
Autism Classroom.com's List of Social Skills Strategies