One of the most important skills that a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can learn as they grow and advance with their play skills and communication skills is how to play and interact with others! Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may exhibit difficulties engaging in play with others and sharing some similar interests. Increasing social interactions can be worked on with any child! Although, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder present with difficulties in advancing their communication and play skills to further social interactions, this is an area that is very important within child development and can lead to an increase in creating friendships and interacting with others daily. Exactly, why are social skills so important? Information about the importance of social skills is provided at www.childdevelopment.com.au. An important note found on this website is about an is that “social skills are vital in enabling an individual to have and maintain positive interactions with others. Many of these skills are crucial in making and sustaining friendships” (“Play and Social Skills”, 2021).
BCOTB recognizes how important peer play and increasing social interactions are and seek to work on improving these skills through the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis! Despite the difficulties that an individual may endure with engaging in play and social opportunities, there are many programs that can increase a child’s skill set. Sometimes, beginning by teaching a child how to engage in simple requesting, attending, and play skills is necessary in the development social skills and playing with others. These skills can be expanded upon as they progress and grow older. The opportunities for a child to interact with others and play appropriately with them are more than available in a group setting, such as our clinic locations at BCOTB. Below are some ways that play skills can be targeted during a child’s time at BCOTB and how those play skills aid in the development of social interactions with others.
Ways Play Skills and Social Skills can be Targeted with Early Learners:
Teaching appropriate play skills to young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder early on may enhance a child’s acquisition of age-appropriate developmental skills, build positive relationships with peers, and enable children to demonstrate desirable behaviors (Jung & Sainato, 2013). A young child may exhibit deficits in prerequisite areas to play and social skills. Some ways that we can increase opportunities to engage in play and social skills within programming include, working on requesting for items and activities, increasing eye contact and joint attending, fine and gross motor imitation, and turn taking during preferred activities. In order to best promote a young child’s success, these skills will be targeted during teachable moments that occur during play with preferred items and activities and during instruction. These skills are targeted outside of social opportunities to ensure success. As a child increases independence of emitting these skills, opportunities for children to practice these skills with peers to increase social opportunities will be incorporated during their time at BCOTB.
Ways Emerging Play Skills and Social Skills can be Targeted:
Once a child becomes more fluent in the prerequisite skills involved in independently engaging in play skills and social skills, we look to expand their ability! Expanding on attending to others, requesting from peers, and responding appropriately to them, and working on beginning conversational skills increase opportunities for a child to engage in play with others and increase social skills. Ways that we can expand on these skills can include initiating conversations by working on greeting others and emitting farewells, attending to others in the environments, and setting up opportunities for children to request for preferred items and activities from peers. To ensure the beginning skills that a child may learn prior to interacting with others during play continue to progress, they will continue to be targeted during their time while also targeting new skills.
Ways Advancing Social Skills and Play Skills can be Targeted:
Children can continue to advance within social skills and play skills. At BCOTB, Natural Environment Teaching (NET) is incorporated throughout a child’s day to maximize natural opportunities to put the skills they have learned into action! Even after a child’s prerequisite skills are targeted and skills have emerged, advancing these skills are important. Advancing skills such as, initiating conversations, requesting and responding to others during play, and attending to others in the environment can involve a child engaging in play with others and engaging in meaningful conversations with them. Areas to target skill advancement during these opportunities include working with a child to initiate play with others independently, join ongoing play with a peer, working with that peer to meet a shared goal, and engaging in problem solving skills. Interventions that target social and communication skills appear to improve children with ASD’s ability to initiate interactions, reciprocate during social exchanges, and infer the interests and emotions of others (Mason, Kamps, Turcotte, Cox, Feldmiller, and Miller, 2014).
Any child can benefit socially by learning how to play and work with peers. Play increases skills that are useful in accessing enjoyment within our daily lives. Engaging in peer play increases the emergence and advancement of social skills and teaches children how to work with peers. An important aspect of our lives is interacting with others and a perk of this is the development of friendships. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggle to access these friendships and play with others appropriately. In turn, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often isolate themselves from others. Increasing social skills is an important benefit of engaging in play with others. We work with children by increasing their play skills with peers so that opportunity to engage in social play becomes natural! Play and the development of social skills in an essential aspect of a child’s life. The individuals who are employed as Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Board Certified assistant Behavior Analysts, and Registered Behavior Technicians at BCOTB work with children towards the developments of social skills necessary to access friendships and play is a great way to do so!
**BCOTB has been Tampa’s leading provider of pediatric ABA therapy since 2003. With four clinic locations throughout the Tampa Bay area, we know that our clinic is the right spot for your early learner! BCOTB focuses on in-clinic early intervention for children from birth to ten years old. BCOTB accepts most major insurances, including, but not limited to: Aetna, Anthem, Baycare, Beacon, BCBS, Cigna, CMS, Florida Blue, Humana, MHNet, Meritain Health, Magella Health, UnitedHealthcare, and TRICARE.**
Jung, S., & Sainato, D. M. (2013). Teaching play skills to young children with autism. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 38(1), 74-90.
Mason, R., Kamps, D., Turcotte, A., Cox, S., Feldmiller, S., & Miller, T. (2014). Peer mediation to increase communication and interaction for students with autism spectrum disorders. Res Autism Spectr Disorder, 8(3), 334-344.
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