At present, there are 1 in 68 cases of Autism Spectrum Disorders(ASD) according to latest statistical data located at the Center for Disease Control. Some of the most common characteristics include failure to read social cues and other nonverbal cues from their peers and others around them. Another common trait is the inadequacy to pick up on social skills as the brain develops but processes information differently. In the last decade, there have been a significant number of studies on why autistics struggle to pick on social skills.
One such finding has been on mirror neurons which are nick-named, “Monkey See, Monkey Do” according to Science Daily and other resources. Many investigations have found that mirror neurons fire inside the brain of a neurotypical when he or she observes his or her peers acting a certain way in a certain place. For example, one might walk into a library and notice that everyone in this atmosphere is either quiet or whisper so they be quiet too. Whereas, inside the brain of an autistic, where the brain processes information differently, their neurons only reflect the actions of the autistic. For instance, that autistic’s neurons might pick up the appropriate behaviors of others in that library. Rather, it would copy the behaviors of the autistic where they might get loud over the excitement of seeing a favorite book Science Daily; (2005,2008).
In 2008, a team at the University of California, San Diego ran a study on 10 difference autistic boys by attaching an electroencephalograph (EEG) in order to look for mu waves that can often be found in humans. These waves disappear when a humanoid is seen copying the action or behavior that was picked up by the mirror neuron. All the while, each subject was required to move their hands while watching a video with white noise that contained the image of a bouncing ball. While they found the mu waves were being blocked normally, the team found abnormalities as well. What they discovered was that mirror neuron were only reflecting the actions and behaviors of individuals. Science Daily, (2008).
All the while researching have used brain imaging to look for clues on what causes developmental delays in a lack of social skills among autistics. Such investigations have found damage in the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for learning and picking up on social skill without having to be taught directly. Finally, the was a study that looked at the deficiency in the hormone vasopressin, which is responsible for blood pressure and linked it with lack of social skills. To investigate, 28 individuals with ASD were looked at by giving them the hormone but the findings came back with uncertain results. Whether a direct result is ever found, teaching social skills to individuals with ASD is key.
When teaching social skills whether they are a child or adult, there are many tools that one can learn to use when teaching these skills. Additionally, these tools can be taught in paid supports and in natural supports. Yet, one set of tools requires a degree and professionals who are licensed and trained or even have the opportunity for a good internship. The other, which is natural can doesn’t require one to have a degree or special qualifications. Rather the only requirements needed are patients, understanding, and education about autism, parenting and mentoring. By the same token, anyone can teach social skills in the form of natural supports whether it’s a family member, friend or an elder at a house of worship.
My the first form of learning social skills, natural supports can be taught at home by families, other adults in the individual’s neighborhood, employers, colleagues, and friends. Such examples of social skills include learning basic table manners, such as not talking with your mouth full, managing anger, using appropriate humor and even ordering from a restaurant. Another good example that I often demonstrate at my presentations on this topic by using an object so people to learn to take turns talking while holding a certain object while others learn to listen and wait their turn. I find this helpful being that I tend to dominate the conversation.
Examples of social skills
- Table manners
- Eye contact
- Appropriate humor
- Anger management
- How to deal with irate people or bullies
While there is advice from Dr. Temple Grandin herself, I have created a list of do’s and don’ts when teaching social skills.
What should be done:
- Be honest and direct with tact: Pulling individual to the sides
- Mentors visually play the role of individuals
- Play games at tables– Patrick situation “The
- loving push.”
- Baby steps
- Role play and practice going to parties, places
- in communities
I believe that the main reason why teaching social skills in natural supports is important is because this type of teaching not only saves a family a big amount of money but it also helps build a better foundation for helping these individuals grow. Teaching social skills naturally can be done when an individual is 21 and over. For example, I began learning my first social skills by a family member and one of their close friends in 2003. They taught mine by way or role-playing where one individual with be me and show me how to interact with people by looking down at the ground. They also showed me that I barely acknowledged others around me by saying “Hello ” and walking away while barely acknowledging them.
Contrarily, there are ways that social skills should never be taught to autistics among natural supports. Growing up, I have seen some really bad methods of teaching social skills well as good. One example would include using sarcasm or hints which most autistics struggle to process as most of us often take everything seriously. Among this example, you can find a list of don’ts below. Another thing to keep in mind is when teaching social skills to an individual on the spectrum, they not be taught with the expectation to make an autistic become a cookie cutter person or that teaching can cure autism. In fact, there is a short list of don’t’s for the community.
What should not be done
- Yelling and screaming
- Name calling
- Calling the individual out on the spot
- No hints or sarcasm
- Guilt tripping
- Make the person feel bad because they missed the expectations of social norms
While such examples above can get out of hand, good getting into the good practice of helping individuals by teaching them everyday values that the mentor was taught can create growth.
Unlike natural supports, which are community-based licensed and certified professionals take center stage and provide broader teaching forms where families and others in the community cannot reach.
- Learn to take turns talking or talking more-use
- Theatrical models to read facial expressions
- Exercises – Listening
- How to socialize at parties and social gatherings – mingling, appropriate topics
- Invite clients to do things in community-tips in the mail – Places like coffee shops
- shop to practice social interaction
- PEERS- Teenagers where parents and teens separated.
- A. 14 Sessions- each week different topic- Coach and teen leader
- B. Homework each week- Practicing making appropriate phone
- C. Taught table manners
- D. Example- Jeopardy to get to know each other and finding
- common interests
- E. Trained to handle parents with inappropriate behavior – Keeping them focused when they try to distract others
Likewise, there is a list of do’s and don’ts for professional running these social skills programs as well.
- If the behavior is inappropriate- Pull to side or cal after the event is over and be direct.
- Have clients sit at different tables-color coding-
- Mention when there are new clients and
- introduce new clients to other current clients and talk about interest
- Offer mentor sessions- one on one.
- Check in and out.
- Listen to client
On the other hand, there is also a handful of don’t’s that professionals might find helpful when working with autistics.
- Correct or humiliate them during the event
- Minimize client something bothers them-
- Just say “That’s inappropriate” or “That’s not
- appropriate” and walk away.
- Nitpick every little detail of client’s behavior or nagging.
- Setting the poor example: Sarcasm and name-calling example, “Put client down and say, “I was just kidding”
- Laying a guilt trip on the client for everything he or she does wrong
- Making them feel like they don’t the mold
- Shout at them
- Shame them
- Badmouth their family to them
Last but not least, if an autistic is not comfortable attending a paid support, there are great alternatives to learning social skills. One of those opportunities includes learning on the internet. One of the great resources out there is a website that was created by another autistic named Daniel Wendler. The name of his site is “Improve your Social Skills.” Not only does he offer paid one on one sessions via Skype that offers coaching session but he offers lots of practical steps that are free as well.
Another alternative is the Asperger Experts which is run by two adult men on the spectrum. One of which goes by Danny Raede and offers lots of ways that an autistic can get out of his or her comfort zone in order to understand why it’s essential to learn social skills. Unlike Wendler, AE offers many types of workshops via video, webinars and even conferences that are designed to help autistics and their families grow and get out of what they call, the “Defense Mode.” While these can be costly, Raede and his team have a list of free videos on their Youtube Channel the “Asperger Experts” along with a blog that autistics can easily read and find helpful tips correspondingly.
To conclude this week’s blog, here is a list of resources that I hope families, individuals in the community at home.
Resources in which some are located right here in the Georgia area
- Autism Skills for Life: http://autismskills4life.com/
- The Community School: https://thecommunityschool.net/
- Emory Autism Center:
- Learning on the Log: http://www.learningonthelog.com/
- Marcus Autism Center: http://www.learningonthelog.com/
- Asperger Experts: https://www.aspergerexperts.com/
- Improve Your Social Skills:
- http://autismskills4life.com/about/Autism Skills for
- Hello World with Miyah:
- “Social Skills for Teenagers with Developmental and Autism spectrum disorders”:: Elizabeth A. Laugeson and Fred Frankel
- “The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals can help spectrum kids become successful adults,” Temple Grandin, Deborah Moore\
- “The Way I See it:” Temple Grandin, Ph.D., Foreward Emily Gerson-Saines
- “The Unwritten Social Rules of Social Relationships.” Temple Grandin and Sean Barron.
Ecoweekends. (2013, November 12). Students with Asperger’s develop social skills through interaction with horses. . Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxCNR-lroA8&t=2s
European Science Foundation. How mirror neurons allow us to learn and socialize by going through the motions in the head. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081219073047.htm>.
Equine Therapy for Asperger’s Children. (Photo) (2010, May). Equine therapy for Asperger’s children. My Equine Therapy. http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2009/11/equine-therapy-for-Aspergers-children.html
Grandin, T [Maine Public] (2011, October 20). Temple Grandin on teachable moments[Video File].Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9Z5CCvGiZ4&t=1s. •
Haelle, T. (2015, July 22).Hormone linked to social difficulties with autism, early study finds levels of vasopressin associated with ‘theory of mind’ tasks in children with ASD [Web log post]. Retrieved September 2016, from https://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/autism-news- 51/early-
Sundermeyer, M. (2017, November). Learning social skills through natural and paid supports. (Presentation). Georgia Positive Behavior Supports Conference. Lawrenceville, GA.
I’m Dan (Photo). (N.D). I’m Dan. Daniel Wendler. http://www.danielwendler.com/
Nydesjo, J. (2018, February) (Photo) Our musical Brain. Homer Simpson brain. Jonas Nydesjo. http://www.jonasnydesjo.com/var-musikaliska-hjarna/
Packer, A.J. (2014, November).(Photo) NEVER Land: 15 table manner taboos. Bad table Manners 5 Cat. Alex J. Packer, PD.D. http://www.alexjpacker.com/blog/2014/11/2/never-land-15-table-manner-taboos
study-links-hormone-to-social-skills-deficits-in-autism-701556.htmlLatham, C. (2006, October 14). The Asperger experts- AcidRayn.com. <http://acidrayn.com/2015/11/12/short-review-of-an-asperger-experts-video/>
Social intelligence and the frontal Lobes [Web log post]. Retrieved September 2016 • Laugeson, E., & Frankel, F. (2010).
Social skills for teenagers with developmental and autism spectrum disorders: The PEERS Treatment Manual. New York, NY: Routledge Taylor and Francis.
Short review of an “Asperger Experts Video” (Photo). Asperger Experts: Take it from Us, We’ve Lived It.
University Of California, San Diego. “Autism Linked To Mirror Neuron Dysfunction.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050411204511.htm>
VanderPloeg, L. (Illustrator). (N.D). Table Manners. <Book keeping.com. http://fsgbookkeeping.com/table-manners/>