Social Skills Development

Learning social skills is a lifelong journey, for all of us, but especially for those with ASD. With the appropriate supports, education and practice, people with ASD can develop the skills they want or need to navigate relationships, employment, and the world around us. A person’s social understanding might present differently depending on age and cognitive level of functioning.

Many social skills programs in Ontario lack parent involvement and feedback. Results from our Caregiver Survey showed that less than half of the programs evaluated encouraged parents to monitor the effectiveness of their child’s progress. 


Why does science matter in choosing social skills interventions? 

The diversity of approaches to teaching social skills to children with ASD presents a challenge for parents, educators and professionals. How does one choose what interventions will be best suited to meet the needs of a particular child or group? We are recommending that a scientific evidence-based approach be used when choosing or designing any social skills interventions for children and adults with ASD. However, when it comes to choosing social skills interventions, finding evidence-based approaches may not seem so important or even feasible given the limited number of programs available in most communities. Parents are simply trying to find any program that has the potential to help their child function better in the social world and often do not have the luxury of being choosy. Despite limited existing options and constraints on resources to create new options, it is crucial that parents and educators become aware of what intervention components have been demonstrated through research to be effective in teaching social skills. With this knowledge, parents and educators will be able to advocate for, or create social skills programs that have the best chance of developing not only social skills but also social understanding and making a real difference in the lives of people with ASD.

Whether you are designing your own child’s or student’s program or evaluating the best options available in your community, we recommend that you consider the following: 

1. Programs that offer a social skills curriculum 
2. Ongoing progress evaluation 
3. Evidence-based social skills interventions 
4. A program that focuses on skill generalization and maintenance 
5. A focus on larger social goals
6. A social skills program that meets the cultural and language considerations of your family



Read more about Autism Ontario’s recommendations for Social Skill Intervention in Ontario.