Social Skills Training and Children with Autism: Does Teaching Children with Autism Social Skills Improve Their Relationships with Peers?
Overview of Autism
Children with autism have social skills deficits, which cause them to not socialize with their peers or learn from their peers (Carpenter, Soorya, & Halpern, 2009). In general, children with autism do not attend specialized schools for their needs. Instead children with autism attend regular schools with typical peers (Laushey, Heflin, Shippen, Alberto & Fredrick, 2009). Typical peers are children of the same age that display no mental or physical delays; as a result, they are normal. Without a foundation in social skills children with autism will continue to be left behind as their typical peers grow and learn more.
Although there is no known cure for autism, there are ways to help children with autism improve their social delays. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has acknowledged the importance of social skills training, the APA has defined autism as being a disorder that greatly effects verbal and nonverbal communication and greatly impairs all things that have to do with social interaction (APA, 2001). Children with autism will not learn from interactions with their typical peers alone, there needs to be some adult intervention as well (Disalvo & Oswald, 2002). The main obstacle that children have to overcome when they are diagnosed with autism is their social skills impairments (Carpenter et al., 2009).
The Use of Direct Instruction
Direct instruction is tools with empirical evidence proven to help children with autism learn social skills which they can then implement at school and beyond. Direct instruction is defined as the use of a researcher or teacher that models and prompts children with autism on the correct way to act in a social situation, the teacher uses visual and auditory prompts, praises, and feedback to the child all with the goal of teaching social skills (Banda & Hart, 2010). An example of a great visual prompt through direct instruction is concept mastery routines (CMR). A CMR can be seen as a concept diagram and is created through interaction between the teacher and the children involved. The CMR allows for a graphic representation of the skills being learned so that the child with autism can see and physically touch what is being taught (Laushey et al., 2009). CMR are not always needed ,and just prompting children with autism and typical peers together can be just as effective (Banda, Hart, & Liu-Gitz, 2009).
Direct instruction is successful because it creates an environment that is safe and comforting, so that the child with autism and the typical peers can interact with each other, when they normally may not have done so (Banda & Hart, 2000). With an adult initiating the interactions the child with autism can learn the skills needed so that they can then initiate social interactions on their own, this way they can use these new found skills on...