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Social skills are any competence, rules, and abilities that helps conduct interactions with others. Many people generally pick up on social cues over time and how one is supposed to react in certain situations. For people with autism it is generally hard for them to create these social skills. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a broad spectrum of conditions identified by challenges with repetitive behavior, social skills, speech and nonverbal communication. Play is an important part of a child’s cognitive development, children with autism struggle playing with peers. There are several practices that can help connect social and communication interactions with peers such as social stories, video modeling, and group training.
Play is part of the way young children develop in social interactions with others. While most children discovery these skills through play, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder lack the ability to gain the skills of the classic pattern of play development. One indication of Autism Spectrum Disorder in early years is lack of pretend or imitative play. “Young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to engage in more immature play (e.g., prolonged sensorimotor play stage), use toys and objects in a more rigid or restrictive manner (e.g., spinning tires of a toy car repeatedly), and have poorer quality in their play skills”. Play is not usually observed in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder because they lack the skills of other children. Since children with Autism Spectrum Disorder do not know how to interact in play, they usually pick something else to do other than playing with peers. There are ways that therapist can introduce play in different practices such as social stories.
When interacting and initiating certain encounters with other children, it can become complicated for those with autism. Social stories or scripts are written outlines, examples, or scenarios of interactions that are between classmates. The stories or scripts are read to the learners throughout the training process. They can be used to teach many social interactions between people and especially helpful for introducing interactive play. Social stores for play include statements, questions, and responses in a given social situation. The stories are individualized for every student based on the task that is assigned, and each story has a picture to give extra support for the child.
An experiment based on social stories questioned whether they were improving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder social interaction in play. The social story intervention program was best practice for educating students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and a single story was relevant for a group of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In social stories there should be four types of sentences such as descriptive, directive, perspective and control sentences. Clear sentences can help identify what the child needs to do in that interaction. Social stories can help with all sorts of behaviors that are necessary for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to obtain. Social stories give the child a real life situation that they may encounter and gives them the correct way to handle the situation. The success of the social story depends on an array of factors such as targeted behaviors, reading level, and motivation of the child. To achieve the best results of this type of intervention children should be on a first grade reading level.
Another way they can present social stories is through virtual learning environment. This has proven to make children with Autism Spectrum Disorder more motivated and participate in a more enjoyable process. Picture cues can help them facilitate communication and in addition it is more interactive for the learners. Having the virtual learning being more interactive it will better grab the attention of the learners and stay with them longer. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more visual than anything else which can also be demonstrated through video modeling.
Video modeling is a practice that requires that the children repeatedly watch a video of how to interact in play. It helps learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder because it can help catch the attention to certain aspects of the task at hand. It is a preferred activity for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder that they used these in interactions in a natural setting. Videos usually last around thirty seconds to four minutes in time. It has positively impacted a variety of skills including social communication, functional, and motor skills.
Ways to encourage children with autism to play is through social skills training. One article “Teaching Functional Play Skills to a Young Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder through Video Self-Modeling” discusses the potential effects of video self-modeling and how it can increase functional play. The researcher set up toys for the child and prompted him to play with them functionally. There were three sets of toys farm animals, doctors clinic, and rescue station. Each time that the child first played with them it was recorded and edited. The final video was made for each toy and later muted from all the background noise. Before playing with each toy the child was shown the video that was made of him and then allowed to play.
Based on the Video Self-Modeling (VSM) the child showed improvement in his functional play. The VSM allowed the child to view himself playing with the toys in the correct functional play. He had not been prompted on how to play with the toys, he had only watched the video. VSM is effective to steadily increase the correct play actions when the child was presented with the toys. There were no prompt used in this practice and it has shown to be an effective source of intervention for a child with autism.
Another VSM study was shown to improve on both social initiation and appropriate toy play in a number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Imitation skills are important during a video modeling intervention. Children that do not have the appropriate imitation skills can not correctly accomplish play. Social initiation is based on imitation skills of the child. “It may also be the case that the more extensive training in imitation skills is a prerequisite for successful performance”. To be able to accomplish this type of practice having the skill of imitation has to be present and in the study some of the children did not fully have that skill. Since some of the children did not fully obtain the skill of imitation their results of the video modeling were not as successful.
Another way to teach children with Autism Spectrum Disorder social skills is using group-based training. Group based training is based on having peers engage with students with autism. Having a peer to engage naturally can benefit the other child in showing them how to interact socially. In recent studies it shows that using the group based training in a natural setting where children play, like the playground, it is essential for the blending of inclusion and standard based instruction. The children that engaged with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder were trained in how to get their attention and interact with them.
By having these students without disabilities being able achieve the interaction from the student with Autism Spectrum Disorder they were able to continue the training. The children without Autism Spectrum Disorder used the training for later on encounter which lead to friendships between the two students. The trained students would offer up different activities and give certain responses to the child about how well they were doing or give them different options. The targeted social skills, interactions and turn taking, are practices are leading roles in social competence.
In almost every study about social interaction with group play the children with Autism Spectrum Disorder choose to play in solidarity. When presented with a schedule of playing with someone else they will but it is not their first choice. In the study of a schedule based interaction with peers the percentage of group play increased. Prompts were given to the student when the schedule chart was not present but when it was not a lot of prompts were necessary for peer interactions. Without practices that focus on social and play skills within the classroom, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder go on to exist in solitude even though they are in a rich social environment.
All three types of social skills training intertwined with each in how a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder interacts with other children. The importance of teaching children the correct social cues is best taught through visuals. All of these practices are presented as visual and have shown to improve children with Autism Spectrum Disorder social interactions. Students with autism learn social cues from the interactions and being taught how to interact. The goal of social skills training through any practice is for children to be able to interact in their natural social contexts.
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