AT Considerations for ASD Wikispace link:

According to research, unsuccessful social skills programs are ineffective due to:
  • Failure to assess social skills prior to intervention
  • Insufficient dosage: not implemented frequently enough to have a significant effect or for the student to maintain new skills over time
  • Contrived and decontextualized settings: social skills are not worked on in the natural environment, or skills initially learned in more structured settings are never carried over into more natural ones
  • Failure to match skill deficit with type of intervention strategy
  • Use of ambiguous intervention objectives: For example, "improving conversational skills," which doesn't list specific behaviors that can be measured.
  • Lack of systematic programming: social skills programming is not structured systematically so skills can build on one another or be more relevantly tied together
  • Poorly implemented interventions: even interventions with strong research to support their usage may not be effective if implemented incorrectly.

Evaluation, Planning, and Implementation of Interventions
  1. Evaluation: Determine what social skills the student can exhibit currently, as well as those that are deficient.
  2. Planning: Based on evaluation results, measurable measurable social skills goals are developed. This not only includes the skills to be targeted, but also how they will be taught, what location, and with whom the student will be working with.
  3. Implementation of interventions
    • Begin by teaching the skill in a 1-on-1 situation, which allows for frequent modeling, rehearsal, and feedback on performance.
    • Once the student is able to independently use the skill, rehearse in a structured small group with a specific format that all students follow (e.g., scripted questions)
    • Increase the group size and incorporate less structure. This will require the student to respond to novel questions and comments from others, but is a much closer representation of "typical" social interactions the student will encounter outside throughout the day.


Research suggests that play development is significantly related to cognitive, language, and social development. Through play, a variety of skills are learned:
  • Sharing
  • Cooperation
  • Turn-taking
  • Imagination / pretending
  • Imitation
  • Task completion
  • Perspective taking

Students with autism often have a lack of varied and imaginative or imitative play, and may fail to develop peer relationships appropriate to their developmental level.

Supporting the development of play:
  • Utilize student interests and preferences
  • Provide visual labels (photographs/sketches) in play areas, which communicates what the student is to do there and where items belong. This alone will not be enough, so direct teaching will be necessary.Utilize prompts as needed until the student is completing play activities more indepenently.


  • Allow for student choice of play activities


Video Modeling:

National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders:
Capitalizing on the visual strengths of students with autism, video modeling allows learning to occur through observing video representations of various situations. It can be used to teach a variety of skills:
  • Social skills: joining a game in progress
  • Appropriate behaviors: how to walk in the hallway
  • Self-help: making a sandwich
  • Vocational skills: assembly activities
  • Academic: the steps necessary to complete an assignment
  • Communication

3 Types:
  1. Traditional video modeling: Adult or peer completes the behavior(s)
  2. Video self-modeling: Student completes the behavior(s)
  3. Point-of-view video modeling: Camera viewpoint is what the student will see

  • Focus on behavior(s) or sequences of behaviors that occur most often during the school day, or those that are most difficult for student
  • View video clip(s) regularly with the student: 1) Prior to the behavior sequence happening; 2) If the sequence is completed incorrectly
  • Utilize other mediums to reinforce the video: 1) Written list of steps in the sequence; 2) Still images (photographs) of the steps in the video that the student puts in order
  • Videos created for specific students can be transferred to a variety of portable devices, such as iPods, and viewed by the student prior to social interactions.


Social Narratives:

National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders:
  1. Social Stories - Texas Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET):
  2. Social Scripts: These are memorized by the student and used in social situations
  3. Power Cards: Uses special interests to teach and reinforce academic, behavioral, and social skills\

General guidelines for writing social narratives:
  • Identify the target social behavior
  • Identify the social situation(s), setting(s), or context in which the target behavior should occur
  • Collect baseline data on the behavior prior to the intervention (to determine the effectiveness of the intervention). See the CHALLENGING BEHAVIOR section for data sheets
  • Write the social narrative, taking into account the child's needs and functioning level. The length of the narrative and the wording used is very important.
  • Add relevant visuals to support the text, such as pictures, photos, or drawings.
  • Read the narrative to the student, demonstrate the target behavior, and role-play with the student
  • Make modifications to the story as needed to improve its effectiveness (e.g., more/fewer words; additional images; change of setting
Power_Card_A.png Powercard_2.png Power_Card_Example.png
Resources (provided by TARGET):


This strategy clarifies social expectations by listing examples of social behaviors that are desired or undesired in certain social situations. For example, behaviors that are and are not acceptable in a restaurant.


Texas Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET):

Conversation Starters:

Texas Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET)
  • These are strategies for initiating and maintaining conversations with others
  • Conversations, including actual content, are prepared ahead of time
  • Content is rehearsed and can be "role-played" with an adult until the student is able to use the content fluently
  • Visual cues other than text, such as photographs, can also be utilized
  • Fade the script or images used over time, so natural prompts in the environment become what cues the student during conversations

Social Autopsies:

Texas Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET)
  • An intervention that allows an analysis of errors in social interactions after they have occurred
  • The social error is identified by the the student, as well as those persons hurt by the error. Together with an instructor, the student identifies what social behaviors he/she needs to exhibit during similar social interactions in the future. This plan can be reviewed and rehearsed with the student to increase the likelihood that the alternative social behavior(s) will be used.

Situation-Options-Consequences-Choices-Strategies-Simulation (SOCCSS):

Texas Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET)
According to TARGET, "SOCCSS is a teaching strategy designed to help students understand social situations and interactions. Specifically, it offers problem-solving and decision-making techniques for analyzing situations by asking questions and making choices about how to deal with a problem, and how to function in socially appropriate ways. The SOCCSS strategy consists of a step-by-step process whereby the student learns discrete skills and how to apply his learning to a given situation."

General Suggestions:

  • Take photos of adults and peers (with permission) that the student encounters on a regular basis. Teach the student 1st to receptively identify the photographs when given the name (array of 3-4 pictures), then to expressively label the pictures. Finally, work on the student going to that person and engaging in a particular behavior ("Go ask Ms. Jones to give you a napkin").
  • Teach students to label emotions and social interactions using visual supports (photographs and/or video). Video may be a more effective method because it captures the movements involved. Photographs of emotions are commonly used to teach the skill. Begin with teaching the student to receptively identify the emotion when you state it. For example, "where is happy" would result in the student selecting an image of someone smiling from a selection of pictures depicting other emotions. Once the student can do this effectively, teach expressive labeling for emotions. Example: holding up a picture of someone smiling, and asking "How does she feel?"
  • Use a Motivaider or other electronic device that signals the student to engage in a particular pro-social behavior, such as making a comment, initiating a social interaction, or requesting assistance.