Social Skills Development

Learning social skills is a lifelong journey for all of us, and especially for those with ASD. With the appropriate supports, education, and practice, people with ASD can develop the skills they want or need to navigate relationships, employment, and the world around us. A person’s social understanding might present differently depending on age, cognitive capacity, and ability to communicate.

Many social skills programs in Ontario lack parent involvement and feedback. Results from our Caregiver Survey showed that less than half of the programs evaluated encouraged parents to monitor the effectiveness of their child’s progress. 


Why does science matter in choosing social skills interventions? 

The diversity of approaches to teaching social skills to children with ASD presents a challenge for parents, educators and professionals. How does one choose what interventions will be best suited to meet the needs of a particular child or group? We recommend choosing a scientific evidence-based approach when selecting or designing any social skills interventions for children and adults with ASD. We know that finding evidence-based approaches may seem less important or feasible in some areas of the province where a limited number of programs are available. With fewer options, parents may feel they don’t have the luxury to be choosy. Despite limited existing options and constraints on resources to create new options, it is crucial that parents and educators learn which intervention components have been demonstrated through research to be effective in teaching social skills. With this knowledge, parents and educators will be able to advocate for, or create social skills programs that have the best chance of developing not only social skills, but also social understanding, and making a real difference in the lives of people with ASD.

Whether you are designing your own child’s or student’s program or evaluating the best options available in your community, we recommend that you consider the following: 

1. Programs that offer a social skills curriculum 
2. Ongoing progress evaluation 
3. Evidence-based social skills interventions 
4. A program that focuses on skill generalization and maintenance 
5. A focus on larger social goals
6. A social skills program that meets the cultural and language considerations of your family



Read more about Autism Ontario’s recommendations for Social Skill Intervention in Ontario.