August 4, 2016

The Foundational Five: Social Communication Intervention

All across the Commonwealth this August, families will start collecting school supplies and teachers will begin organizing their classrooms as students head back to school. While families are purchasing calculators or notepads and teachers are considering academic goals across the curriculum, one aspect of school life is often overlooked for students with ASD: social communication.

Social communication challenges are the hallmark of autism spectrum disorder. Social communication issues can range from challenges with sharing emotions or interests to difficulties using and understanding nonverbal communication to developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships. Because every student with ASD will struggle with social communication in some way and no two students with ASD are the same, it is crucial to address these critical skills in an individualized program. This is why the final piece of VCU-ACE’s Foundational Five best practices includes social communication intervention!

Did you know?

The Models of Best Practice in the Education of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder guidance document from the Virginia Department of Education includes addressing social communication skills. Because of the characteristics of ASD, we have to think far beyond just reading, writing, and arithmetic to include a wide range of other skills!

These social communication challenges can severely limit opportunities in the classroom and in the community. In order for students to be more successful at home, in their schools, and ultimately be prepared for adulthood, evidence-based programs will pull in all the elements of The Foundational Five -- ABI, Visual Supports, Systematic Instruction, and Reinforcement, as each of these vital social communication skills is addressed. For more information and a list of possible social communication skills to identify, please read through the Models of Best Practice guidance document here:

Straight from the Classroom

Franklin County High School piloted a project-based elective class to target age appropriate social communication skills for students with ASD during the spring 2016 Semester. This course was loosely based on the PEERS curriculum and was enhanced through projects, peer mentoring, and community inclusion. Some of the projects included skits about understanding body language and making good friends. Students from this class went to two elementary schools to present to students receiving special education. The class practiced skills learned in the classroom out in the community including going to Virginia Western Community College to see the campus and find out about courses, practicing ordering and using manners at a restaurant, attending a basketball game and going out for pizza afterwards, and using telephone skills through after school phone call assignments. During class time, they also role played interviews targeting appropriate nonverbal communication skills such as eye-contact, tone of voice, and answering questions completely. One student interviewed in the community and got a job at Kroger!

As a way to ‘give back’ students made and sold Autism Awareness ribbons. They raised $400 that they donated to Pediatric Therapeutic Services.

While this was a very successful pilot year, the team has decided to expand next year’s class to involve more community based partnerships and making connections with local businesses. “We really want to have students do mock interviews with potential employers and receive feedback from the actual businesses. Additionally, we will discuss character and leadership qualities and explore role models, and what makes a role model. We will continue the project based learning as it proved to be beneficial for our students and the elementary students as well.”

Kim Piedmont, Franklin County High School

Want to learn more?

For more in-depth information about The Foundational Five including reinforcement, sign up for the course Evidence Based Practices to Teach Students with ASD. The next course starts October 24, 2016.

Looking for something you can use right now?

Check out our How To videos, including topics from The Foundational Five such as prompting, reinforcement, visual supports, and environmental considerations, but also teaching requesting and functional communication!

Don't Forget!!!!!

There are no scheduled webcasts for the summer; however, if you missed out on any of the presentations, be sure to check out the archives! Topics range from pre-k instruction to social communication skills interventions to personal stories from adults to updates in the legislature.

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