Social Support for Individuals with ASD 2012

Erica Howell, Ph.D.
Are you pumped to
learn a variety of free
and easy-toimplement strategies
that support your
students’ social
understanding and
Table of Contents
Theory of Mind
The Impact of TOM on the Educational Setting
Social Interventions
The Hidden Curriculum
Social stories
Social Scripts
Comic Strip Conversations
Power Cards
I. Theory of Mind (TOM)
What is Theory of Mind and
why is it important?
Theory of Mind
Theory of Mind (ToM) is the ability to infer the
mental states of others in relation to their
knowledge, intentions, beliefs, desires and the
ability to use this information to interpret what
another says, make sense of the behavior and
predict what he or she will do next
Depending on the researcher or interventionist, ToM
may also be referred to as perspective taking,
social thinking, social cognition, or empathy
Theory of Mind cont.
ToM is hypothesized to be the core, central
impairment of autism
Functions as a continuum of impairment with some
individuals with autism exhibiting more theory of
mind impairment than others
ToM is CRUCIAL to social, interpersonal, and
communicative relationships
Mistakes in understanding and interpreting social
interactions can have serious implications for
relationships with others.
Theory of Mind cont.
Social Challenges may
impact the following:
Joint attention
Emotion recognition and
Understanding knowledge
Mental state language (e.g.
know, think, feel, guess)
How does a
Theory of Mind develop?
Theory of Mind Development
Typical developing children
have “theory of mind” by
the age of three or four,
but it develops as early as
infancy with behaviors such
Pointing or vocalizing to
direct another’s attention
toward an object
(establishing joint attention)
Learning what an item is like
based on positive or
negative reactions from an
adult (social referencing)
Theory of Mind Development cont.
Theory of mind also affects how children
understand emotions: by the age of three,
children should understand that a situation
affects emotion
 By the age of four, children can take into
account someone’s desires and beliefs, predict
how they will feel
II. The Impact of TOM on the
Educational Setting
Why is ToM an important
construct for general and
special educators to understand?
Importance of ToM
With the impact of IDEA and NCLB, the inclusion of
students with autism spectrum disorder and testing
results hold higher importance for general
educators than previous years
Teachers must learn to examine the relationship
between ToM, behavior, classroom instruction, and
educational content
School and Classroom Navigation
A typical school day requires repeated social
navigation and can be exhausting for the student
with ASD. Classroom interactions that occur between
the teacher and student, peer work groups, and
sharing space are examples of common scenarios
where a ToM is needed to interact.
School and Classroom Navigation Cont.
For example, one middle school student with highfunctioning autism I worked with was distressed
whenever a classmate sneezed. Upon seeing or
hearing the action, she would exclaim in a loud
voice how disgusting the “sneezer” was. Her
impaired ToM prevented her from interpreting her
classmates’ snickers and facial expressions as a
response to HER inappropriate behavior.
Another student often exclaimed, “I’m bored!”
during his teacher’s instruction.
School and Classroom Navigation Cont.
Everyday school activities such as recess or PE hold
social challenges for our students on the spectrum
 Recess/PE:
Typically consists of a large unstructured
area where kids run around, engage in group games
without explicit rules, and use social language. How
 Teach
 Most
recess and PE skills explicitly!
of these students want to be part of a group, but
don’t know how to.
III. Social Interventions
Now that you have background
knowledge on what TOM is and why it is
important, let’s learn about some interventions
that facilitate social understanding
The “Hidden Curriculum” of Schools
Implicit or unstated social rules make up a “hidden
When these rules are violated, an individual may
be teased, bullied or ostracized
 e.g.
boys don’t wear “pretty” shirts, a teenager playing
“detective” around the neighborhood will be mistaken
for a stalker
The hidden curriculum differs according to age,
gender, groups of people, and culture
 The
movie “Elf” demonstrates this perfectly!
The Hidden Curriculum Cont.
Our students on the autism spectrum need these
rules explicitly taught to them
 When
I was an elementary school teacher, my young
male students with autism continually violated the
hidden curriculum of using the bathroom . Neuro-typical
peers would often tattle that my students dropped their
pants all the way down to their ankles when using the
Can you think of the
hidden curriculum of a
Birthday Party?
*Hint: Don’t blow out the candles on the birthday kid’s cake!
Stop, Observe, Deliberate, Act (SODA)
SODA is a tool for interpreting behavior and
problem solving how to respond
Typically used with individuals with Asperger
Syndrome in order to promote social interaction
skills and helps guides students on how to act in
novel situations
This component helps the student develop a
framework for a specific situation that requires social
interactions. When the student enters a novel
situation, she uses self-questioning to decide what to
do. The first question guides the student to develop an
organizational schema for the setting (i.e., Where
should I go to observe? What is the room
arrangement?). The student identifies a place to stand
to observe and learn about the social situation.
The second step, Observe, helps the student become more aware of
social cues other people use in the setting. In this step, the student
should pay attention when she can hear other people’s conversations.
She can also note how others conduct themselves (formal vs. informal
language), length of conversations, conversation topics, whether
individuals stay in groups or move from group to group, etc. However,
the student should be careful not to eavesdrop on people’s private
conversations or be seen as suspicious by loitering. During this step, the
student seeks to understand the roles of various social cues and the
meaning of typical phrases or behaviors used in the setting (i.e., When
people say, “Where have you been?” you are not supposed to name
all of the places you have visited). Thus, the goal of the Observe step
is to identify what others are doing.
The overarching question that should be asked during this stage is,
“What do I need to do to successfully participate in this setting?” This
component helps the student decide what to say and how other people
will perceive her. The student can ask herself, “What would I like to
do?” and “How will other students react if I say this?”
The secondary issue to be addressed during this stage is to identify
particular aspects of the event that might be problematic and
identify strategies to address these. For example, if the situation is
loud and the student is sound sensitive, she may need to remind
herself to wear her earplugs or immediately create a plausible
excuse that will allow her to leave the situation quickly.
The final step guides the student in how to interact
with others. The student identifies people with whom
she wants to interact in the specific setting and acts
according to the plan she developed during the
Deliberate stage.
Social Narratives
Social Stories
A social story is an individualized story from the
perspective of a person with ASD
They can be created in a variety of formats, including
pictures with words, text alone, audiotapes,
videotapes, PowerPoint, etc.
Who is Line Leader?
My name is Andrew. I am in the first grade.
Sometimes, the children in my class form (one, two,
three, etc.) lines.
The children in my class stand in a line when we are
getting ready to go to another part of the school.
Children do move a little when they stand in a line.
Children may move to scratch, or fix their shirt, or
their shoe. Sometimes, because they are standing
close together, children may touch one another.
Many times, it is an accident when children touch
one another in line. They were not planning to touch
another child.
Usually, children stand and walk in lines for a short
period of time. Once the children reach their
destination, their teacher often doesn't need them to
stay in the line anymore.
Sometimes, I may be the Line Leader. This means
that the other children in my class will walk behind
Sometimes, I may be second, or third, or fourth, or
another position.
Many children in my class like to be the Line Leader.
My teacher knows who should be first in line.
Teachers know about being fair, and try to make
sure each child is Line Leader now and then.
It's important to follow directions about who is Line
Leader. My turn to be Line Leader again gets closer
every time the children in my class walk in a line!
Social Story Formula The Four Basic Sentences
Descriptive sentences - answer “wh” questions,
truthful, opinion & assumption free statements of
fact, only required sentence of the four basic
 Ex:
At work we bag the breadsticks.
Perspectives sentences - describe feelings, beliefs,
thoughts, motivation of social situation
 -Ex:
Eric likes working in the cafeteria.
The Four Basic Sentences
Directive sentences - offer or suggest response or
choice to a social concept or situation, based on a
student’s effort
 Ex:
I will try to walk to the cafeteria.
Affirmative sentences - used to stress an important
point, refer to a rule or law, or reassure the
individual, often express a socially agreed upon
value or opinion
 Ex:
Most people eat dinner before dessert.
Social Story Ratio
For every directive sentence, there needs to be at
least two to five descriptive, affirmative, or
perspective sentences in the story.
This ratio ensures a descriptive quality to the social
Essential Elements of a
Social Story
Written from the perspective of the student
Answers “wh” questions
Written in positive language
Has an introduction, body, and conclusion
Is literally accurate
Uses language matching ability
Can be adapted by using pictures, illustrations,
audio and video
My name is
Keira Howell.
Sometimes I go
to the hospital
to get
After I arrive at
the hospital and
go to my room,
the nurses ask
me to put some
medicine in my
Sometimes I
don’t like this!
When it is time
to take the
medicine in my
mouth, I can sip
the medicine or
swallow it quickly.
Fancy Nancy likes
taking medicine
that tastes like
grape, bubble
gum, or cherry.
Next, the nurses
use soda *POP*
because it helps
my arm not hurt
when the needle
goes in. Soda pop
is loud! Mom can
help by covering
my ears.
Now it is time to
put the needle in
my arm. This is
how the medicine
gets inside my
body. The
medicine helps
my body feel
good and stay
It is good to snuggle my mom and stay calm.
If I kick and move, the nurses and mom
have to hold me still. I don’t like when they
do this. If I start to get scared, I can:
Let my mom hold me
Remember that God will keep me strong, and
Know that it will be over very fast!
Cousin Brooke
thinks it is very
cool that I can
take my medicine
in my mouth and
stay still while
the needle goes
in my arm!
Sometimes the
medicine makes me
sleepy. That’s good
because mommy
loves when I
snuggle her!
Mommy and I can
put on a movie,
watch it together,
and I can fall
asleep on my mom
if I’m tired.
When I wake up,
I can play with
toys if it is not
already time to
go home. There
are a lot of fun
activities to do
at the hospital.
Once all the
medicine is in my
body, it is time to
take the needle
out. Sometimes,
the tape hurts. It
is good if I let the
nurse or mommy
use the alcohol
wipes to take the
tape off. This will
help it not hurt so
Once the needle
is out, I am all
done! I get to
pick a special
prize for being
such a brave girl!
It was a long day!
My family is so
proud of me for
getting the
medicine that
helps my body
stay healthy!
Social Scripts
Social scripts provide an individual with statements,
comments and questions to use in specific social
scenarios that they may have difficulty navigating
on their own.
Social scripts can reduce the stress of social
interactions that individuals on the spectrum can
Social Script: Ordering at McDonald's
When I go to McDonald's I like to order a Quarter Pounder with cheese and
nothing else on it. When the person taking the order at McDonald's says: "Can
I help you?" I say: "I want a Quarter Pounder with cheese only on it. No
onion, no tomato, no lettuce and no mayonnaise." They usually say "Quarter
Pounder, cheese only?" And I say: "Yes, please."
The person taking my order usually says: "Do you want fries?" And I say, "Yes,
please, medium fries and a medium Sprite to drink."
The person behind the counter then asks me if that will be all, and I say: "Yes,
thank you."
I give the person my money and they give me my change. I take one step to the
side at the counter so the person behind me can give their order while I wait
for my order to be put on the counter.
Comic Strip Conversations
Steps to creating a CSC:
 Engage
in small talk
 Draw about a given situation
 Provide structure or sequence
 Present perspective
 Provide sequence or structure
 Summarize the cartoon
 Identify solutions
Power Cards
Power cards are visuals that incorporate a child's
special interest in a brief scenario that deals with a
situation that is difficult for the child.
They are written in the first person from the
perspective of a child's hero and describe how the
hero solves the problem.
A small card recaps how the child can use the same
strategy to solve a similar problem of her own.
Wow! I can’t believe
how much I learned!
That’s right! It’s so cool that
all this information is at
your fingertips. After
listening to this lecture, you
have the knowledge to
socially support students
with ASD in multiple ways. I
encourage you to continue
developing your “tool box”
of interventions. Don’t be
afraid to use your tools to
help a student with ASD!
Recommended Resources
Free online training modules addressing a variety of
topics pertinent to ASD
 Loads of resources, videos, assessment information
 Michelle Winner’s website
 Free videos and podcasts from leading researchers
 Great website for teachers of students with ASD
Contact information
Erica Howell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Special
Cal State University,
[email protected]

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