Jamie, now 8 years old, has moved to Shanghai with his parents and younger siblings. Jamie was diagnosed at age 3, with what was then known as Asperger Syndrome (now grouped into the DSM-V’s broader category of Autism Spectrum Disorder) by a team of specialists in his home country. Jamie is a sensitive and often funny young boy, who has, over time, had many special interests. Upon arriving in Shanghai he developed an enthusiasm for architecture, in particular tall buildings. Jamie has strong expressive verbal language skills and cognitive development. However, he also shows marked weakness in his social communicative learning. He can talk at length about the height and facts about famous landmarks, however pays little attention to if the ‘listener’ is engaged or even participating in the conversation. He also finds some academic areas difficult, particularly written expression where he is required to interpret information about what people are thinking or feeling. Organizational skills are especially challenging for him. He also found the social emotional demands of moving to a new school and city overly taxing on a system already stretched to capacity, and his family noticed he was now having frequent and intense emotional outbursts. One of the recommendations for Jamie from his class teacher was that he attends a “social skills” group.
Teachers, parents, doctors, or therapists refer children to a “social skills” group for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the child is perceived as shy or anxious around their peers; they may feel the child has difficulty initiating or maintaining friendships. Referrers often feel the child would benefit from some pragmatic social language instruction, that is, learning specifically about how to use language appropriately in social situations. Often children (such as Jamie) have particular challenges in managing their behavior in an expected and socially accepted way for their age in relation to their peers.
LIH Olivia’s Place currently offers social skills groups based on the social cognition program developed by Michelle Garcia Winner, known as “Social Thinking.” The Social Thinking program is not designed to cover all “social skill” difficulties. Rather, it is designed to be most effective for Emerging Social Communicators, with the goals of the group to help children improve in the areas of: Joint Attention, Perspective Taking, Developing Reciprocity, Communicative Intent, and Using Language to relate to others. Social Thinking is a language-based learning approach, and so to benefit from this approach, children require solid to advanced verbal language skills. Read more