Autism and Social Skills
1. Introduction
I am prepared to spend most of my time in the last part of my essay, which deals with the possible ways of increasing social skills in children with autism, and I think I will gain a clear knowledge and understanding of how children with this disorder behave. Autism is not a single disorder, but a general syndrome that affects cognitive and emotional development. The exact cause of the condition is yet to be fully understood, although a great deal of research points towards a neurobiological origin. Advocates of the latter theory claim that autism is an organic dysfunction and that the disorder is not emotional and results from a child’s upbringing or social circumstances. Also, there is some evidence to suggest that autism may be linked to the dysfunction of two interconnected physiological systems in the brain used for social recognition and understanding of another person’s intentions and emotions. These physiological systems are known as the “mirror neuron” system and the system known as “theory of mind”.
In children with autism, the rate of social relatedness and emotional exchange is markedly compromised. Through research, I plan to explore a possible relationship between social developmental deficits related to socialization in children with autism called “mindblindness” and social skills deficit and impoverishment in these children. However, for the purpose of this essay, the focus will be on one of these two main conditions which is the social skills deficit in children with autism. This essay will be divided into three main parts: the initial part will be the introduction to autism and the possible causes of this disorder. The second part of the essay will explore the major theoretical explanations of autism, while the final part will be the critical appraisal of specific treatment interventions.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts communication, behavior, and social functioning. Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner, but the disorder has only gained public attention in recent years. In fact, the prevalence of autism in the United States has increased from 1 in 125 children in 2019 to 1 in 54 in 2020. Despite its growing recognition, many misconceptions about autism continue to be perpetuated. This essay aims to explore the social skills deficit in children with autism and come up with suitable teaching interventions to tackle this issue.
2. Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism is a common disorder that affects how the brain develops. The basic brain functions such as learning, decision making, and language skills are also affected. Autism is characterized as a “spectrum disorder” because the range and severity of the symptoms people with autism experience can vary widely. Some 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder, which also affects their families and the people who work with them. The rates of diagnosis of autism have been on the rise, and today autism is the second most common developmental disorder. Autism can sometimes also be accompanied by various other sensory sensitivities and medical problems. However, most people with autism may have difficulties with executive functioning (the “conductor” of brain activities which includes organizing, planning, shifting between activities, and inhibiting responses) as well as motor coordination. Also, others may have attention and hyperactivity disorders. Health and education professionals use a range of techniques and methods to help manage and treat the different aspects of autism. Autism is not a mental illness, but the way in which people with autism and their families live with the condition can sometimes lead to the development of mental illness. However, if people with autism receive support from health and education professionals, they are likely to lead an independent life. By contrast, without such support, their difficulties may lead to the development of depression, schizophrenia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is important that care, support, education, and treatment aim to improve people with autism learn to manage their condition. It is also important that health and education professionals work in partnership with people with autism, their families, and carers when managing and treating the condition. This will help strengthen their capacities to engage in the various activities including work, family life, education, recreation, and active citizenship.
3. Impact of Autism on Social Skills Development
On the other hand, research suggests that the difficulties associated with autism, including difficulties with social interaction and communication, have a significant effect on the development of adaptive skills, which are the skills needed for independent living. For example, a study has shown that children with autism have more daily living skill problems compared to those without autism. It is suggested that the deficits in social interaction and communication associated with autism lead to a decrease in the development of these skills.
People with autism have serious difficulty in engaging in social interactions and often show a lack of awareness about other people’s feelings. For instance, they may interrupt others, fail to say ‘thank you’, or appear to be insensitive about other people’s discomfort. In addition, all people with autism have complex and unique social skills profiles. Here are some examples about children with autism. Some children may not make eye contact; some children may not understand the unwritten social rules to respect and trust others; some children may not use facial expressions; some children may not understand the personal space of others and so on. Yet again, the reason for these may be quite different. Some children do not use facial expressions during verbal communication because they find listening and watching at the same time to be a big issue for them, so the energy for facial expression can be ignored. Some children make a lot of eye contact because they feel uncomfortable keeping an eye on someone’s face and reacting to facial expressions; they have to learn the rules to make eye contact with others. We will come to the strategies later.
Students with autism typically experience delays in the development of social skills, as well as difficulties with social interaction, throughout their lives. Moreover, the severity of these problems varies from person to person. Some people have more subtle social impairments, such as the inability to understand nonverbal communication, while others have more severe problems, including a total lack of interest in social contact. However, it is not the case that all individuals with autism will vary in this way; it is just a reflection of the spectrum of the disorder itself.
4. Strategies for Enhancing Social Skills in Individuals with Autism
Given the potential challenges in the social abilities of children with autism, it is critical to enhance those impaired abilities by focusing on the development of nonverbal and verbal communication, the improvement of social initiations and responses, and the establishment and maintenance of interactions and relationships. In general, there are three main approaches to achieving the above goals. The first approach is to use the developmental, individual differences, relationship-based model, or DIR model, which focuses on the importance of developing the social-emotional capacities that drive the development of social relationships. The second approach is to employ the strategies of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). This includes reinforcing good behavior, prompting the children through the activity, leading the children to practice the social skills in one-on-one controlled setting, and systematically ignoring bad behavior and teaching the children to correct the behavior before they can go on. What’s more, the use of picture cards as visual supports to help children on the autism spectrum to develop social initiations and respond has been found effective. A reductive strategy can be used in the community and in the school. The students learn how to use the strategy “red thought, green thought” through the explanation of the traffic light, which helps them to see how their feelings affect their behavior. As a result, many classes of social studies have adopted this strategy in their work. It is now well established that children with autism are capable of learning new social skills and that with appropriate encouragement and direction, they have the capacity to enhance those impaired abilities. As life skill is crucially important and it is not currently implemented in the present high school curriculum, it is a great area for the expansion of outreach program for children with autism. Therefore, steps have to be taken not only to make it compulsory for children with autism to be exposed to life skill lessons, but also to introduce social skills sessions with the aim of continually and systematically teaching these children these vital social hygiene. This will prepare these children fully for the drastic changes that are lying ahead of them. Well, certainly time and money need to be spent, but it is all worth it for these children who are suffering from such fate.
5. Conclusion
Overall, there are wide variations in the social abilities and medical analysis of people with ASD. Some people with autism have the ability to lead a normal life. However, the overwhelming majority of them face many challenges in interacting with others, especially in using spoken language and non-verbal forms of communication. The management of individuals with ASD and poor social skills typically involves addressing the distressing symptoms and helping the individual develop to their best potential. This intervention may be done with the involvement of knowledgeable professionals like behavioral analysts or therapists. Parents and caregivers can contribute by constantly monitoring the individual’s behavior and guiding them on appropriate social behaviors. In fact, the role of caregivers and parents is quite crucial. The main target of the intervention should be to boost the individual’s ability to function socially. This will benefit them throughout their lifespan and the later transition period in adulthood. It will also help significantly if members of the community help to reduce the social isolation faced by individuals with poor social skills by actively participating in and supporting intervention and services designed to promote their inclusion and acceptance within the community.

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