Students with Autism can lack the Social Skills necessary to function successfully in environments with their peers, often resulting in exclusion from groups. Social and play skills must be directly taught, meaning, most students will not simply pick up these skills on the playground like their peers. They need to be taught like any other skill and practised in structured and natural environments. Check out the Social Skills Checklist to determine gaps in your student’s Social Skills behaviours.
Here are 5 types of Play we would typically observe in a school setting:
1. Solitary/Independent Play
Self-centered child plays alone
2. Onlooker Play
Child observes other children playing but does not join in (i.e. recess time)
3. Parallel Play
Children play the same game side by side (i.e. painting at 2 easels side-by-side)
4. Associative Play
Children play separately from each other but problem solve together (i.e. block structures)
5. Cooperative Play
Children begin to play together, setting up for future interactions (i.e. dramatic play)
Here are the 3 ways I teach Social Skills:
1. Direct Teaching
I directly teach the concepts of waiting, turn-taking and positive praise by guiding students using appropriate prompts and modelling by playing games with them and their peers.
2. Visual/Audio Cues
A Big Mack Communicator is a great way for non-verbal students to indicate “My Turn”, and turn taking cards provide students with a visual cue of when to play and when to wait.
3. Reverse Integration: Selected students from general education classrooms spend time in a special education classroom setting to provide the students with special needs with an appropriate role model in a setting where he or she is comfortable.