Super Skills: A Social Skills Group Program for Children with Asperger Syndrome, High-Functioning Autism and Related Challenges
Based on a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the unique characteristics of individuals with ASD, Judy Coucouvanis presents 30 lessons grouped under four types of skills necessary for social success: fundamental skills, social initiation skills, getting along with others, and social response skills. Each lesson is highly structured and organized, making it easy for even inexperienced teachers and other group leaders to follow and implement successfully. A series of practical checklists and other instruments provide a solid foundation for assessing students’ social skills levels and subsequent planning.
Reviewed by Maureen Bennie
Director, Autism Awareness Centre
Super Skills is a social skills program designed for children ages 7 to 11. Author Judith Coucouvanis, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and behavior specialist, brings a wealth of experience and understanding to the creation of this user-friendly program. Groups of 4 to 8 participants can be lead by any professional such as speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, nurses, teachers, social workers, counselors or parents. One leader can run a group although it is preferable to have a co-leader is if the leader is a novice. Leaders should have an understanding of children with ASD’s, be flexible because the pace and activities may need to change during a lesson, have enthusiasm for teaching these children and a sense of humor.
Ideal candidates for the Super Skills program are children with minor language impairments that can answer direct questions and participate in discussions. Reading and writing skills are helpful but not necessary as other supports such as visuals can be used to assist with learning. Super Skills can be delivered anywhere there is a space for a round table and chairs. Each of the thirty lessons takes 90 minutes to complete. Targeting a specific skill deficit lasts 4 to 6 weeks.
Super Skills is divided into 4 areas that are the foundation of the program. Fundamental Skills such as eye contact and appropriate facial expressions are required for effective communication. Social Interaction Skills are needed when approaching another person to start communication or a conversation. Social Response Skills like greeting, entering a conversation, or inviting someone to play, are used in response to verbal/nonverbal communication, interaction initiated by someone else or in response to an event in the environment. Getting Along with Others builds skills to foster positive relationships.
The Profile of Social Difficulty (POSD), an assessment tool, is a list of skills necessary for effective social interaction. This alone makes this book a must-have because it helps the leader target which social skills need to be addressed rather than making an arbitrary decision. Documentation is the key to creating an effective program. The POSD is completed by someone who knows the child well and is familiar with social interaction skills such as a parent or teacher. The Target Behavior Practice chart tracks the child’s use of new social skills and earns them credits towards a reward. The Know the Student checklist helps the leader get to know the child’s interests, stress response, language abilities, academic skills and sensory issues for example. Gathering this information before delivering the program will ensure greater success because the correct skill deficits will be targeted.
For the leader, there are 3 chapters devoted to creating success, how to deal with disruptive behavior, and how to use the lesson plans. With all of the background help provided in the book it is easy to see how any professional or parent can set up their own program.
The lesson plans are very user friendly and easy to follow. Each lesson begins with the Steps to Success for the social skills. These are several point statements about what is comprised in the social skill and should be copied out onto a flipchart or blackboard for the children to see and refer to. Thoughts Before Starting explains the skill deficit and gives the leader information about lesson preparation.Introducing the Skills is how to begin the lesson. Warm-up Activities, Role Plays, Practice Activities, List of Supplies, Supportive Skills to Prompt or Reinforce, and Extended Skill Development sections take all the guesswork out of how to teach the social skill effectively.
The appendix contains the templates for all of the assessment tools, evaluation forms, the Steps to Success from each lesson, homework coupons, and picture supports for use with the Steps to Success.
Super Skills is a super book chocked full of ideas on teaching those critical social skills that elude children with autism, Asperger Syndrome and other related disorders. With the amount of support this book provides, anyone can deliver the program effectively. Teachers could use the program with an entire inclusive class because anyone can benefit from learning positive ways of socially interacting. Super Skills is a super way to teach the basics of positive socializing.