This blog post written by Liz Watson, CCC-SLP
Making friends can be really freaking hard. Our children’s school-age years are supposed to be filled with the easy friendships that come with childhood. However, many of our high-functioning kids with ASD want friends, but have no idea where to start.
In Medbridge’s* CEU course Focusing on Friendship: Building Social Groups for Autism, Dr. Laura DeThorne explains why so many of our social skills groups fail to actually help kids with ASD make real friends. SLPs tend to use skill-based interventions which focus on teaching social skills in isolation and normalizing deficits. Kids often don’t generalize the skills they learn outside of therapy, and we risk lowering their self-esteem when they’re unsuccessful. We may even inadvertently send the message that kids with autism aren’t “friend-able” just the way they are.
In this course, DeThorne describes the Social Approach to Intervention. This approach involves:
One of the best ways to implement this type of intervention is to create affinity-based groups. Don’t tell me you don’t have multiple kids on your caseload who are obsessed with quoting movies. Or maybe you have a few who are **really** into Pokémon Go. I bet you even know some typical peers who are interested in these things as well. Try to build groups around these shared interests, where members are all equal. We’re not using the typical peers as teachers or “experts” on social skills. Instead, peers are equal members of the group.
I found this course on Medbridge* to be extremely applicable to my work with young children. The instructor includes sections about goal-writing and techniques for scaffolding peer interactions. She gives great examples of visuals and how to respond to specific situations. At the end, she participates in a question and answer session that details how to implement this type of intervention in the constraints of a public school. Check it out, #SLPeeps!
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*Disclosure: Any links with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links, meaning The Informed SLP, LLC (TISLP) will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Please note that TISLP has strict rules about what type of content we’re willing to share with you. We only share products or resources that meet our standard of being clinically applicable, clinically useful, and based on the strongest available research evidence. Additionally, which MedBridge courses we choose to review is a decision made independently by the TISLP team member(s) writing the post, and must be: 1) evidence-based, 2) clinically useful, and 3) enjoyable :)