Throughout the mental healthcare industry Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is seen as the gold standard for helping individuals with autism spectrum disorder to meet their best possible outcomes. ABA therapy’s data-driven approach and deep roots in tested behavioral psychology help children of all ages to meet ever-increasing milestones.

One aspect that ABA therapy excels at is helping children with ASK to improve their social skills. This serves as a strong foundation for being able to do things like form strong-healthy friendships, interact with peers, and achieve greater educational success.

To better understand the process of how ABA therapy can help improve your autistic child’s social skills, we’re going to have to take a little bit of a deep dive into the details of social skill interaction and ABA’s time-tested approach.

The Importance of Social Skills

A lot of children with autism spectrum disorder have various degrees of difficulty with things like communication and social skills. In broad terms, social skills are essentially the customs, rules, and the ability to interact with others in a healthy, constructive way. They serve to guide human interactions with each other in a way that helps enhance the world around us.

A lot of people develop social skills gradually, much in the same way that they learn language skills. This helps the brain to develop a sort of social map of how to in behave in situations and interact constructively with others. It’s no small coincidence that challenges with language skills and social skills often go hand in hand for individuals of any disposition.

Yet for a lot of individuals with autism spectrum disorder, healthy social skills can be challenging to learn and pick up. This often forces them to make their “Best Guess” on the social map in situations that many of us take for granted.

When they miss the mark or struggle to have the positive interactions that they crave, it often leads to frustration. This can cause some children with ASD to act out negatively. Some choose to simply withdraw. Either response ultimately makes it more challenging for them to learn the positive social skills they need in the future.

ABA therapy’s approach to social skills development for children with autism spectrum disorder often involves:

  • Direct instruction
  • Re-creating “Teachable Moments” that lead to further practice in realistic settings
  • Focusing on timing
  • Techniques to boost attention
  • Supporting enhanced communication
  • Interactively working on improving sensory integration
  • Learning predictive social behaviors that lead to positive outcomes like friendship and happiness
  • Making improvements in cognitive skills
  • Making improvements in language skills

Professionals Teach Social Skills in a Variety of Settings

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder often have a variety of social skills that they have to learn. These skills also need to be practiced in a variety of settings including:

  • At home
  • In school
  • In a controlled classroom setting
  • In a clinical setting
  • In the community
  • In small group therapy sessions

While ABA therapists essentially guide the process, there is a wide range of other professionals from different disciplines who can play an important role in the “Support Team” for a child with autism spectrum disorder.

This might come in the form of a special education teacher, a speech & language pathologist, occupational therapists, general education teachers, or other clinicians who may lead a “social skills group.” Many of the approaches used combine explicit, direct instructions along with cultivated opportunities for your child to practice and generalize important social skills in more natural settings. In time this can even mean real-life practice with peers.

The Benefits of Social Skills Groups

A lot of children with ASD benefit from social skill groups that provide an opportunity to practice their social skills with each other as well as peers who are on a similar milestone basis. These groups are often guided to some degree by an ABA therapist or other clinicians on the child’s support team. A lot of these social skill groups follow commercially available social skills curricula.

These social skill groups often help do things like:

  • Providing a structured environment
  • Cultivating social predictability skills
  • Breaking down abstract social concepts
  • Developing concrete social interactions
  • Simplifying language for children at a similar skill development level
  • Working on social skills in pairs
  • Working on social skills in groups with cooperation and partnership
  • Providing a variety of learning opportunities
  • Fostering an innate sense of self-awareness
  • Bolstering the child’s sense of self-esteem
  • Preparing the child to socially interact in a real-life setting

Developing A Customized Approach

No two children with autism spectrum disorder have the same exact symptoms and challenges. This means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to bolstering social skills and language development in children with ASD.

This is where ABA therapy shows off its effectiveness, in the scientific data-driven approach to assess each child’s development skills, symptoms and challenges. This information is then factored into developing an effective treatment plan that is agile. As your child progresses or perhaps shows challenges in their progress, the ABA treatment plan can be modulated for maximum improvement.

In the short and long term, this approach helps your child meet ever-increasing milestones with their social and language skills. All of these contribute to greater quality of life, healthy interpersonal relationships, and in many cases improved academic success.

Building A Support Team To Bolster Social Skills Improvements

One of the other ways that ABA therapy helps children with an autism spectrum disorder to make improvements in their social and language skills is to also help your child’s support team in every phase of the process.

We work with parents, family support systems, and other caregivers to ensure that you have the tools you need to help your child reach their social skill milestones. This can also extend to coordinating with other professionals who are a part of your child’s support team. Such as:

  • Teachers
  • Special educators
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Speech & language pathologists

This ensures that everyone is on the same page with cultivating all of your child’s social skill progress. If your child is experiencing challenges in one venue of their life, but not in others, ABA therapy can help identify the trigger and find the best possible way to unlearn a negative social behavior pattern, while replacing it with a positive one.