American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Autism: Supporting Social Cognition in Schools

Session Descriptions

These pre-recorded lectures are on-demand and last only an hour, so you can listen to them whenever time permits!

Plenary: Social Communication Challenges in Children With ASD

Patricia Prelock, PhD, CCC-SLP

Addressing the social communication challenges of children with autism spectrum disorder—and, more broadly, the social cognition difficulties of this population—is a specific challenge for clinicians as they engage in assessment and intervention strategies for joint attention, perspective taking, attention, problem solving, and making meaningful peer connections. This session will define social cognition and social communication in children with ASD; describe the broad spectrum of interventions for supporting social cognition—such as joint attention, theory of mind, social stories, and peer mediation; and explain the need for understanding and applying the new DSM-5 criteria and the common core standards to the assessment and intervention of social communication in children with ASD.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • use the DSM-5 criteria to recognize unique social communication challenges of children with ASD
  • explain the challenges in assessing social communication in children with ASD
  • apply interventions to support joint attention, theory of mind, and social thinking in children with ASD

Choose the Right Service Delivery Models

Sherry Sancibrian, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL

SLPs are faced with the problem of meeting the requirement to serve every student in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This session will present a menu of variables to consider (e.g., provider, setting, type of activity, format, medication, method) and a continuum of service delivery options that might be used, based on the individual student’s needs.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • identify variables involved in service delivery, such as provider, setting, activity
  • list the benefits and limitations of at least three service delivery models
  • match the features of a service delivery model to the current needs of a student

Embed Learning Opportunities in a Natural Environment

Jason C. Travers, PhD, BCBA-D

Learners with autism often receive discrete trial teaching as a primary instructional strategy. This method has significant limitations in that it often relies on contrived learning opportunities, uses artificial contingencies of reinforcement, often does not result in stimulus or response generalization, and can motivate escape-maintained behavior. This session will outline a process that practitioners can use to embed into environments multiple and varied opportunities to learn in natural contexts.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • understand the limitations of traditional discrete trial teaching for promoting social, communication, and other skills as well as why this instructional strategy may contribute to inappropriate behavior
  • organize the learning environment to target skills in contexts that comprise more natural cues and reinforce consequences

Engage With Play and Joint Attention

Connie Kasari, PhD

Children with autism have problems in engagement, play, joint attention, and other social communication gestures. These impairments also affect their ability to communicate and use spoken language. Novel interventions are needed to improve communication (and particularly spoken language), given that about 30% of children with autism remain minimally verbal after the age of 5 years despite having access to current early intervention services.

Specific strategies are discussed from research that has shown efficacy in improving communication and spoken language outcomes in children with autism who begin treatment as minimally verbal.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • use strategies for successful engagement of children with autism
  • identify play level of children and next steps for teaching
  • identify joint attention targets and strategies for teaching

Facilitate Parent-Child Interaction

Juliann J. Woods, PhD, CCC-SLP

It can be difficult to approach parents to stress the importance of engaging with their children in everyday routines and activities to embed interventions that support their children’s communication development. This session addresses strategies to incorporate coaching and performance-based feedback based on adult learning to facilitate parent-child interaction. It also provides guidance on how to identify functional outcomes for the young child and his/her parent to address within routines and activities that are meaningful to the child and family and that also address core deficits of autism spectrum disorder.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • explain to a parent the value of embedding intervention throughout the day in functional activities and routines
  • identify rich routines and activities the family is already using as the context for intervention throughout the week between visits
  • incorporate adult learning strategies throughout interactions with the parent to support development of confidence and competence as the child’s communication partner

Increasing Reading Comprehension in Students on the Autism Spectrum (AS): The Influence of Social Perspective on Comprehension

Sylvia Diehl, PhD, CCC-SLP

In this session, participants will learn how to address reading comprehension issues in students with ASD. The social perspective challenges characteristic of autism are being increasingly identified as an important factor in reading comprehension. Intervention suggestions in this presentation focus on reading comprehension with a focus on social perspective. They combine evidence-based practices from the ASD and reading literature that address summarization, main idea, and character-perspective challenges, as well as, how to support different points of view in understanding persuasive and compare/contrast genres.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • describe the role of perspective taking in reading comprehension in narratives and expository text
  • list interventions that support the comprehension of narratives
  • enumerate methods to support character development
  • identify methods that use the role of perspective taking in reading comprehension in narratives and expository text

No More Meltdowns

Jed Baker, PhD

Some students are overwhelmed with frustration and/or anxiety and refuse to cooperate, creating challenges for the SLP. This session uses case studies in order to address how to de-escalate out-of-control behavior and create prevention plans for seven common triggers to challenging behaviors.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • manage your own emotions as a provider
  • de-escalate crises with your students
  • set up prevention plans for any repeat problems

Improve Engagement in Students With Autism

Jessica Dykstra, PhD, CCC-SLP

Engagement is a critical part of effective interventions, but students with autism present difficulties—especially in the classroom setting. This session will review simple tools to assess these efforts as well as key strategies to improve the engagement of students with autism.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • assess student engagement using observation and/or simple tools
  • use research-based strategies to help improve engagement in students with autism
  • develop key strategies that can be shared with classroom teachers to support engagement in students with autism

Improve Social Communication Skills With ABA-Based Interventions

Amy L. Donaldson, PhD, CCC-SLP

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA)-based interventions have been found to be effective for increasing the social communication skills of children with social communication challenges, particularly children with autism spectrum disorder. However, SLPs may struggle to understand and integrate use of principles of behavior within intervention.

The session will briefly describe the current evidence base for ABA-based interventions and examine the continuum of methods that can be used to target the social communication skills of children. Myths regarding what ABA means and how ABA-based methods can be employed will be reviewed.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • integrate principles of behavior within intervention for children with social communication challenges (e.g., motivation/contingent reinforcement)
  • employ ABA-based intervention methods that can be used to increase social communication with peers (e.g., peer mediation)
  • use strategies for partnering with ABA professionals on intervention teams

ASD, AAC, and Social Connections

Jane Wegner, PhD, CCC-SLP

In this session, participants will learn how to address reading comprehension issues influenced by social perspective. We will review functional and practical suggestions from evidence-based practice in the area of autism and language learning disabilities. These suggestions will help make the most of the clinician’s time and integrate social perspective into the literacy context.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • recognize the influence of social perspective issues on reading comprehension
  • identify multiple ways to address reading comprehension issues influenced by social perspective

Reading Comprehension Through Social Development

Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP

Many students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear quite bright on tests, but struggle with academic tasks, such as comprehension of socially based literature. Traditionally, professionals have treated social skill problems and reading comprehension problems as two separate issues. But today we will explore social cognitive links and treatment ideas to help promote both social skills and reading comprehension. Focusing on perspective-taking lessons developed through Social Thinking®, we will explain how this type of instruction can help all students navigate their social interpretations and related responses used for social skills production, auditory processing, reading comprehension, narrative language, written expression, and more.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • explain how social thinking/social perspective taking is at the heart of any information that requires social processing (reading comprehension of literature, social skills, narrative language, written expression, etc.)
  • define at least six groups of clues we teach students to help them engage in socially based interpretation for a variety of uses (e.g., reading comprehension, playground activity, etc.)
  • explain how we teach students three basic steps to help them learn to make “smart guesses” (basic predictions and inferences) for a variety of uses

Social Skills and the Common Core State Standards

Lissa Power-deFur, PhD, CCC-SLP
Peggy C. Agee, SLPD, CCC-SLP

This session focuses on how SLPs can best support students with autism in their mastery of the Common Core State Standards, especially with respect to social skills. We will first review the CCSS, with particular focus on social skills and social cognition. We will then demonstrate activities for integration of CCSS into students’ development of social cognition and social skills.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • explain how social skills are embedded within the CCSS
  • plan a curriculum-relevant activity that supports the social cognition and social skills of students with autism

Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations: Support Communication

Tiffany Hutchins, PhD

This session reviews the challenge of providing services to individuals with social cognitive deficits that limit cultural learning. Social cognitive deficits may be associated with anxiety as well as a wide range of challenging behaviors. We will describe three models of ASD (theory of mind, weak central coherence, executive dysfunction) as well as the theoretical and empirical bases of using story-based interventions (i.e., Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations) to address social cognitive deficits and their associated symptoms.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • define the term theory of mind
  • discuss protocols for developing, administering, and evaluating Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations
  • identify three common mistakes made in the development of Social Stories

Social Communication in ASD: Assessment & Treatment Strategies

Gail Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP

This session evaluates social communication skills in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), so that SLPs can qualify them for services and be able to write functional treatment goals. Participants will discuss specific assessment ideas and instruments, as well as examples of treatment goals that functionally address social communication.

Learning Outcomes
You will be able to:

  • conduct informal and formal assessment of a school-age child with ASD to gain information regarding social communication skills
  • use developmental information regarding the hierarchical progression of social cognition to generate treatment goals that address social communication skills

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