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Social skills therapy is focused on helping children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) build social skills such as greeting, starting and stopping conversations, play skills, maintaining eye contact, and recognizing social cues.

There is no college degree or official certification for social skills therapy. People in roles such as child psychologist, social worker, special education teacher, drama therapist, occupational therapist or speech therapist can provide social skills therapy.

What does it involve?
If your child’s special education teacher or therapist does not provide social skills therapy, you will need to do research and ask questions to find a therapist who does. Be sure to ask what training the practitioner has in social skills therapy and how much experience they have working with children on the autistic spectrum. You may want to ask for references. Describe some of the problematic scenarios your child faces, such as tantrums or misbehavior, and ask the therapist what sort of intervention they would provide for these challenges. You can ask the therapist to describe a typical therapy session and explain how progress will be measured. Do not forget to ask about payment. If you are paying out of pocket for social skills therapy, find out if the therapist offers a payment plan or requires a contract.

There are many approaches to social skills therapy. One technique utilizes small groups consisting of children with ASD and neurotypical children who have received some training in interacting with autistic individuals. Some social skills therapists use visual elements to promote understanding of social interactions. In social skills therapy, children may play games or watch videos of interactions.

Social skills therapy is usually offered on a less intensive schedule than other types of therapy for ASD.

Intended Outcomes
The goal of social skills therapy is to improve social skills in children with ASD, allowing them to function more effectively in daily life.

A study followed 66 children with ASD who were enrolled in an after-school social skills therapy program for the 2004-2005 school year. The children received social skills therapy and art therapy once a week for one hour. Parents and teachers completed questionnaires at the beginning and end of this period. Based on questionnaire responses, researchers found that the children who participated had made significant gains in social skills, while problem behaviors had decreased. The researchers concluded that the children had improved at a much faster rate due to the weekly social skills therapy intervention.

Your child’s special education teacher, school psychologist or local therapists may not be trained in social skills therapy.

Social skills therapy may not be covered by health insurance.

If you pay out-of-pocket for therapy, it can become expensive.

Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to therapy appointments.

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