What is Social Skills Training (SST) and When is it Used?

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Social skills training is a type of therapy that focuses on teaching children and adults how to interact with others, typically through role playing. Social skill deficits are common in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) but many therapists believe that social skills can be taught just like any other academic or vocational task.

Social Skills Training is a type of therapy that helps people with autism to develop social skills. It can be used in conjunction with other therapies, or as a stand-alone treatment. Read more in detail here: social skills training techniques pdf.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has many key characteristics, some of which have to do with how people comprehend and act in social settings. Many people with ASD require special assistance to learn about social skills and how to interact with:

  • household members
  • friends
  • the locality

Although people with ASD may be driven to engage in meaningful connections with others, many of them need regular education to achieve positive social results. One research-supported strategy for assisting people with ASD in understanding Social engagements and social engagement is Social Skills Training (SST).

SST stands for social skills training.

SST is the umbrella term for a variety of treatments and teaching strategies used to assist people better understand and develop their social skills. SST is sometimes known as social skills groups and is often used in the following areas:

  • behavior analysis in practice
  • specialty instruction
  • psychological counseling
  • treatments based on relationships

SST is carried out by a range of experts, including:

  • teachers
  • behavioral scientists
  • psychologist in schools
  • therapists
  • autism support specialists

Additionally, research shows that parents may get training to efficiently execute SST programs.

What competencies may be taught with SST?

SST covers a variety of social skills. While there are several ways to describe social skills, SST generally focuses on the guidelines and actions that facilitate interpersonal communication.

SST programs may target many skills, as follows:

  • Conversational initiation
  • Greetings
  • Suitable maintains gaze
  • Social engagement
  • How to act in certain social and communal contexts
  • Understanding facial expressions and emotions
  • Using body language and gestures
  • Assertiveness
  • Empathy

Depending on the participants’ age and ability level, SST programs differ greatly. Children with autism may benefit from social skills that include essential play abilities like:

  • turn-taking
  • awaiting other people
  • maintains gaze

Adolescents and young adults with ASD may need social skills such as:

  • expressing thoughts
  • workplace conduct
  • continuing to be friends

Programs for social skills have the advantage of being completely adaptable to the requirements and strengths of each person.

Is SST backed by evidence?

The National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice (NCAPE) describes SST as a research-based approach to social skill instruction. Researchers and service professionals must have produced enough high-quality studies to demonstrate that social skills training improves outcomes for people with ASD before their work can be deemed evidence-based.

Why is it important to teach social skills?


The majority of autistic social skills programs, including SST, acknowledge how important it is to address social skills. SST addresses one of the main signs of autism listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by focusing on a variety of social skills (DSM-5). Several studies demonstrate that helping children with autism acquire social skills can:

  • enhance responsible peer relationships
  • less problematic behaviors
  • an improvement in academic achievement

Various Social Skills Training Methods

As was already said, there is no one format that works for all social skills programs. Finding an SST program that works effectively for each kid is crucial since people with ASD possess a diverse variety of talents. Here are four distinct forms of SST to illustrate how diverse SST programs may be:

Peer-Mediated Interventions and Instruction (PMII) –

In peer-mediated instruction and intervention (PMII), children without an associated diagnosis are trained to be ‘peer mentors’ or ‘peer tutors.’ The peer mentors are then assigned a series of tasks to work with classmates with ASD, including how to facilitate social and play interactions. PMI programs also structure the physical environment of a classroom or clinic to promote Social engagements.

Scripts for social stories

One SST technique that uses textual or visual resources to describe a certain social idea is social tales and scripts. Social narratives and scripts may be altered to better reflect the goals and assets of a particular person. There is little evidence that social tales by themselves help kids with ASD gain social skills.

Instead, role-playing, peer intervention, or rehearsal models where the person practices and gets feedback on performance function best when linked with social narrative.

Modeling videos –

Using video to teach social ideas is one of the most efficient ways to develop social skills. In this technique for training, the person first sees a video of a behavior being shown before attempting to use the social skill. Videos of the person themselves or of youngsters or adults interacting with others may be saved and viewed at a later time.

Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills at UCLA) PEERS –

For 3–4 months, children with ASD ranging in age from preschool to young adults participate in weekly, 90-minute group sessions via PEERS. Sessions include a range of social skills that are taught by:

  • lessons
  • role-play
  • group exercises

These are designed to foster socialization. A parent or caregiver often attends, who trains to help the learner practice the skills at home and in the locality.

A research published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that months after completing their social skills training, young people who took PEERS’ social skills programs continue to grow their social networks. The same research also indicated that within the same time frame, autistic symptoms decreased.

How to Include SST in the Classroom in Simple Steps


According to Krasney, Williams, Provencal, and Ozonoff (2003), there are key components that social skills therapies for kids with ASD must have in order to be effective. If you’re thinking about including social skills instruction into a course at your school, a clinic, or even at home, consider include any of the following components:

1. Concretize the ethereal.

For each social skill to be taught, students should be provided concrete instructions. The application of complicated social standards and abstract ideas are common struggles for kids with ASD. Pay special attention to teaching the following:

  • observe
  • practice
  • rehearse

Continue until the person with ASD can exhibit the ability naturally.

2. Establish a framework and predictability.

Use the same structure and procedure each time the social skills group meets. The benefits of predictability and structure are many for kids with ASD. Routine changes may be upsetting and distracting, which can prevent the social skill intervention program from working. Make a timetable for each session of social skills instruction. This could resemble:

  • introduction of the notion
  • designing the idea
  • hearing the concept again in small groups
  • feedback
  • practicing the move in big groups
  • Time for the conversation to end

Individuals may concentrate more on social skills treatment sessions and less on schedule or routine disruptions by including this into the social skills training time.

3. Simplify language and divide kids into language-level groups.

According to research, children with autism may gain knowledge from peers who have comparable language comprehension abilities. Teaching sophisticated social skills in a lecture style probably won’t be very helpful if a youngster can only comprehend basic, four to five word sentences. Groups that focus on social skills may help kids improve their conversational and game-playing abilities.

Similar to this, individuals with advanced language abilities may not be the most appropriate role models for younger learners when it comes to using basic social language. Before creating training groups for social skills, evaluate and appraise each child’s linguistic abilities.

4. Offer a variety of learning opportunities.

Not every kid with ASD learns the same or grasps various ideas in the same manner.

During social skills groups, try several activities to teach the same notion to maximize the odds a learner could ‘latch on’ to the social behavior in a manner that makes sense for him or her.

Try partner activities. Vary that with small and large group exercises. Use video or technology-based learning opportunities, along with role-playing or traditional paper-and-pencil skills. Collect some data on what activities seem most helpful for each learner and adapt as you go.

5. Pick relevant objectives.

As was already indicated, SST programs use a wide variety of talents.

Before starting training, teachers, parents, and practitioners should assess a learner’s abilities and choose the most crucial and relevant social skills objectives. Whether a student needs the instruction or not, many teachers begin from the beginning of a curriculum and go through each module one at a time.

This may result in negative behaviors, boredom, and time wasted on less important abilities. Choose the objectives and competencies that will most likely have a substantial impact on the child’s progress.

6. A generalization and maintenance program.

Finally, when the student gains mastery over various social skills in a social skills training environment, it becomes more important to figure out how to use these abilities outside of SST.

The capacity of the child to display the reaction in the present with classmates or other adults is tested by generalization tests, which are included into effective SST programs. Similar to this, SST should guarantee that a kid gets enough opportunity to practice a skill so that it is neither lost or neglected after infrequent use. Before you start teaching, give some thought to how you want to design for skill maintenance and generalization.

Adult Social Skills Training

Starting SST is never too late. SST is a valuable technique for individuals who have not developed the necessary social skills. In addition, SST may be helpful as social treatment for adults with conditions like:

  • Spectrum diseases in autism
  • Mood issues
  • psychological problems

Social skills groups provide a variety of advantages, such as:

  • Helping adults improve maintains gaze.
  • how to strike up and carry on a conversation
  • Managing conflict well while honing social problem-solving abilities
  • Developing self-assurance and respect
  • enhancing general mental wellbeing


Krasny, L., Williams, B. J., Provencal, S., & Ozonoff, S. (2003). Social skills interventions for the autism spectrum Essential ingredients and a model curriculum. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12(1), 107-122

behavior analysis in practice | Saint Cloud State University

Psychology Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) | University of Minnesota

June 2020

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Social skills training is a form of therapy that helps individuals with autism learn to better interact and communicate with others. Reference: social skills training for adults.

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