We offer social skills support in a variety of settings. This can be programmed into individual direct care sessions at home and in the clinic, or can be accessed in a group format. Social skills groups are scheduled in 8-12 week increments throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall. We try to organize the groups by age/grade, but this is always contingent on the level of interest. That being said, social skills groups may include a wide age range. If you are interested in signing your child up for a social skills group, please contact Twackerly@advancedbehavioranalysis.com.
Social Emotional Learning
We are excited to be able to offer a social emotional learning (SEL) group. SEL refers to the development of self awareness, self regulation, self control, and responsible decision making. These skills are crucial for successful experiences in school, social interactions, and life in general.
Many autistic learners end up masking their true selves in social situations. “Masking and camouflaging are terms used to describe neurodivergent individuals who seek to hide or minimize their autism traits to fit in with the neurotypical world. Autistic individuals, especially ones who have a history of trauma, frequently feel they need to mask their ASD traits in order to fit in” (Oswald, 2020). Masking can look like pretending to be interested in a topic, using a different voice tone, copying the ways other people dress and act, constantly self monitoring, hiding distress to sensory stimuli, bottling up thoughts and feelings, rehearsing conversation and facial expressions, putting on an act in public or in social interactions, talking more or less than desired, hiding stims, trying to “be normal,” hiding behavior that is considered socially unacceptable, overthinking about how one may come off to others, etc. This is extremely harmful emotionally and has negative long term impacts on a person’s mental health.
Rather than teaching autistic kids to be more neurotypical, we want to focus on teaching them how to practice autonomy, self advocacy and self acceptance. Additionally, psychological flexibility is an important desired outcome of the social emotional learning curriculum. “Learning to accept or become willing to experience unpleasant feelings without overreacting to them or trying to avoid situations that occasion them, while constantly living a life of commitment to the pursuit of valued outcomes and the the experiences in life that are most important to them. The person no longer tries to control or eliminate negative thoughts and feelings or let them impede upon their ability to engage in the life they want.” (Dixon & Paliliunas, 2018)
Our goal with providing a social emotional learning curriculum is to help autistic learners identify their values so they can live a life that is aligned with what is most important to them. We are not concerned with making autsitic kids seem less autistic, or helping them inauthentically fit in with neurotypical kids. We want to create an environment where autsitic kids feel free and confident to be themselves, and to advocate for accommodations they require in order to be successful in social and educational settings. Neurodiversity and authenticity are important values at Advanced Behavior Analysis and we strongly believe that teaching these skills will help our learners develop into well adjusted, confident individuals.
Many autsitic learners experience anxiety or display distressed responses associated with having to participate in non preferred tasks, having to wait for reinforcement, accepting no, etc. The goal of social emotional learning programs is to help children manage these experiences in healthy ways.
If you are familiar with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), then A.I.M. will make a lot of sense! The purpose of the AIM (Accept, Identify, Move) curriculum is to help kids see the bigger picture – Accept both the good and bad things in life, identify what really matters to us and what we want out of life, and then move towards these goals and values (Dixon & Paliliunas, 2018) . The point of AIM is to help the learner live a more value driven life. Our goal is to teach perseverance through difficult experiences, in order to access desired outcomes. This is accomplished through mindfulness practice and therapeutic reconditioning through behavior change, which leads to psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility is the ability to contact the moment more fully as a conscious human being and to change or persist in behavior when doing so serves valued ends.
It is strongly recommended that parents participate in the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and AIM alongside their children. Resources for learning more about the principles of ACT and AIM can be found in books written by Dr. Steven C. Hayes such as A Liberated Mind: How To Pivot Toward What Matters or by visiting acceptidentifymove.com to learn more about AIM specific objectives.
The Science of Making Friends
“This book offers parents a step-by-step guide to making and keeping friends for teens and young adults with social challenges—such as those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, bipolar, or other conditions. With the book’s concrete rules and steps of social etiquette, parents will be able to assist in improving conversational skills, expanding social opportunities, and developing strategies for handling peer rejection.
Each chapter provides helpful overview information for parents; lessons with clear bulleted lists of key rules and steps; and expert advice on how to present the material to a teen or young adult. Throughout the book are role-playing exercises for practicing each skill, along with homework assignments to ensure the newly learned skills can be applied easily to a school, work, or other “real life” setting. The bonus DVD shows role-plays of skills covered, demonstrating the right and wrong way to enter conversations, schedule get-togethers, deal with conflict, and much more.”
PART ONE: GETTING READY
Ch. 1: Why Teach Social Skills to Teens and Young Adults?
PART TWO: THE SCIENCE OF DEVELOPING AND MAINTAINING FRIENDSHIPS
Ch. 2: Finding and Choosing Good Friends
Ch. 3: Good Conversations: The Basics
Ch. 4: Starting and Entering Conversations
Ch. 5: Exiting Conversations
Ch. 6: Managing Electronic Communication
Ch. 7: Showing Good Sportsmanship
Ch. 8: Enjoying Successful Get-Togethers
PART THREE: THE SCIENCE OF HANDLING PEER CONFLICT AND REJECTION: HELPFUL STRATEGIES
Ch. 9: Dealing With Arguments
Ch. 10: Handling Verbal Teasing
Ch. 11: Addressing Cyber Bullying
Ch. 12: Minimizing Rumors and Gossip
Ch. 13: Avoiding Physical Bullying
Ch. 14: Changing a Bad Reputation
Social Express Curriculum
The Social Express is an online platform created by Bright Learning that uses interactive webisodes to teach critical self management, social, and emotional skills. The curriculum has a suggested pacing guide, but can be self paced as well to ensure the child is learning the skill to the best of their ability and each Webisode can be watched as many times as necessary.
The Social Express is targeted for many age groups with different skill levels broken up into 4 main groups: Early Learners (pre k – k), Creating Connections (1st grade), Critical Thinkers (2nd grade), and Emerging Experts (3rd grade +). Each section teaches progressively more complex skills to reflect the social, emotional, and environmental situations each age group would typically encounter. Although the curriculum breaks the content up by these suggested age groups, the level selected will be chosen based on current skills the child would benefit most from gaining.
Webisodes consist of a single lesson on specific topics that fall under the following domains: self-management, conversations, active listening, conflict resolution, relationship management, critical thinking, and non-verbal communication. Many skills are targeted for each of the separate domains. The webisodes are interactive by giving the client multiple opportunities to select answers within the video, and have pop up open-ended questions for the instructor facilitating the lesson to ask and have a conversation with the child about the webisode topic. This combination allows for both receptive and expressive language skills to be targeted during the lesson.