Kentucky Autism Training Center Newsletter Articles

Teaching Social Skills to Your Child with Autism

by Jennifer Bobo, MSSW, LCSW


Social skills are a very important set of skills that impact social, communicative, cognitive and emotional development.  Social skills do not come naturally to individuals with autism and we know that these skills must be taught explicitly if they are going to be mastered.  “How do I teach social skills?” you might ask.  Below, I will briefly review some interventions to teach social skills and provide links to more information, examples and step-by-step instructions to create and implement these interventions.  The interventions I will discuss are social narratives (which include social stories, comic strips and power card strategies), video modeling, visual supports and social skills groups. For a more in depth training on these interventions, watch our archived webinar Social Skills.




Social Stories

Created by Carol Gray, social stories are short stories read before the problem situation that is encouraging in nature and always teaches the child appropriate responses to the specific situation. You can find many, many examples of social stories on the internet and can also create your own social stories.  There is a specific formula for writing social stories.  If you decide to create and write your own, please check out this short overview and step by step instructions on How to Write a Social Story.



Comic Strip Conversations or Cartooning

Comic Strip Conversations or Cartooningis another form of social narratives that many individuals enjoy, which is built upon pictures rather than text.  This form uses simple drawings of social situations to elicit discussion about social contexts and to review and discuss alternative behaviors to a social situation.  The goal of comic strip conversations or cartooning is to plan for a different outcome for future interactions.  View some examples and helpful tips on creating comic strip conversations.



Power Card Strategies

Power Card Strategiesuse individual’s special interests to motivate certain behaviors.  These cards consist of two parts: a brief scenario or character sketch describing how the hero solves a problem and secondly the actual Power Card itself which is a small card that recaps how the child can use the same strategy to solve a similar problem.   View an example or learn more about information on power cards.


Video Modeling

Video Modelingis a teaching technique that involves having an individual watch a video in which a “model” performs a target skill on a video and then practices the skill that he/she observed.   Skills can be modeled by the individual themselves, by a peer or by an adult.  It is best to have someone model the skill that is similar to the individual learning the skill (i.e. close in age, race, sex, etc.)  In this day and age of smart phones, it is very easy for you to make your own Videos!  Just make sure to follow these steps:



  1. Determine the target behavior
  2. Decide who should demonstrate the behavior on the video – self, adult, or peer
  3. Set up the scenario to be videotaped
  4. Videotape the scene
  5. Show the video to the child and discuss the behavior portrayed.
  6. Encourage the child to practice the behavior she saw on the videotape





Here are a couple of examples of video modeling (I went to YouTube and searched Autism + Video Modeling—you can find thousands of video modeling examples, just make sure to preview for appropriateness before showing to your child!)




Visual Supports

Any tool presented visually (picture, written words, objects within environment) that can help increase communication, explain social interactions and understand what appropriate behavior is by posting rules and images that illustrate positive behavior.


For more information on Visual Supports check out Autism Speaks Visual Supports and Autism Spectrum Disorder tool kit .  Also, more information is available on Visual Supports at the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Social Skills Groups

Social Skills Groups are another great way to teach social skills.  These groups focus on a variety of skills including perspective-taking, conversation skills, friendship skills, problem-solving, emotional recognition, etc.   There are many social skills groups around the state.  To find one close to you visit the service directory for the list of groups. When you are at this page, under “Type of Service” please scroll down to select Social Skills Groups and then press “Find Providers”.  If you don’t see one on this list in your area be sure to check out Laura Ferguson’s article on starting your own social skills group.



Jennifer Bobo is a licensed clinical social worker and a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.


KY Autism Training Center Summer 2012 Newsletter August 2012

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


With socialization the topic of this quarter’s newsletter, the evidence-based practice highlighted will be Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII).  The National Professional Development Center on ASD affirms that PMII has been shown to be an effective practice for a wide age range, 3 to 18 --- utilizing peer-initiation training with young children 3-8 and social networking with older children 9-18.  NPDC noted that only 1 study met their criteria for middle/high school age groups, while there was more research supporting PMII for use with early childhood and elementary age children.  It is important to note that generally speaking, NPDC research reviews are concentrated to ages under 21 – so if you are thinking of using PMII or other evidence-based practices with an adult, you may want to simply try it out, as there has not been extensive research completed on this or other EBPs with that age group.

PMII is useful in increasing engagement with peers and children with ASD.    Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention is designed to increase the social engagement with peers for children and youth with ASD.  PMII can be used by a variety of professionals and in an array of environments.

With younger learners (3-8) research suggests that Peer Initiation Training is the best approach.  With this approach, peers are taught how to start a social interaction and appropriately respond to a student with ASD.  The Autism Internet Modules on Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention has done a nice job of specifically addressing each step needed for facilitating a successful Peer Initiation Training – from Selecting, Training and Supporting Peers to discussing Structured Play Settings and Classroom Settings.  They emphasize the need for initiations to occur throughout the day not just one or two times but consistently throughout the entire day/week/month.  Please see the Q&A section for more information on the modules.

For the older child, Peer Social Networks are more appropriate.  Peer Social Networks were developed to not only assist students with ASD to gain access to the general curriculum, but also develop relationships with peers.  In doing so, students with ASD develop a group of students that support them and further promote independence.  Again, the Autism Internet Modules have done a great job discussing the various steps needed to develop and maintain the networks.  Again, it is important that the initiations are occurring through the student’s day!

With the addition of this and other social skills programming, it is hoped that the child with ASD will learn the vital skills necessary for peer relationships and social exchanges.  It is also a goal of PMII to increase the frequency of interaction between peers and student(s) with ASD across a variety of environments and activities.  This should further minimize the child’s reliance on parents, teachers, and other adults for prompts and reinforcement, as they will now get this from their peers in a natural way.

Please view the webinar "Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention" to learn more.


Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center and a graduate student at the University of Louisville. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.


Article sources:

Neitzel, Jennifer. “Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII)”.  Autism Internet Modules, 2012. Web. 7 Aug. 2012.

Evidence-Based Practice: Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention. The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2010. Web. 20 July 2012.