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“Can I Have This Dance” Spotlight Series Review

This past Saturday (February 20th, 2016), Leslie McEnery, BCBA supervisor of Class 1 at InKids presented a workshop to the community on social skills for teens with high-functioning autism. The workshop was part of our Spotlight Series, a free series of workshops held monthly throughout the year that offers free childcare to families, teachers, professionals and other community members. Leslie currently works with our younger children ages 2-6, but she has had extensive experience working with teens in a public school setting in her previous work.

Leslie’s presentation covered the social skill areas of joint attention, social reciprocity, and social cognition including theory of mind and mind-blindness. Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues, in their 1997 paper Is There a “Language of the Eyes?” Evidence from Normal Adults, and Adults with Autism or Asperger Syndrome, defined mind-blindness as “the inability to develop an awareness of what is in the mind of another human being.” This skill is often taken for granted as typically developing children and adults have this innate ability and use it daily. Leslie illustrated this concept through the “Sally Anne Test” which showed that children with autism are unable to accurately answer the question “Where will Sally look for her marble?” as compared to children with Down Syndrome as well as typically developing children who tend to answer the question correctly.

Throughout the presentation Leslie covered instructional methods that are useful for teaching social skills including task analyses, scripts, video modeling, and more. Participants also learned about the Hidden Curriculum, an important tool for teaching those “hidden” rules that come up in different settings that most children and teens pick up without being directly taught. Leslie taught participants about teaching various social skills such as respecting personal space, getting to know new people, conversation skills, active listening, making and keeping friends, and asking for a  date. The presentation ended with discussing the importance of peer mentorship.

Participants collaborated to create task analyses for specific social skills relevant to teenagers such as making a phone call, watched videos of video modeling, and had the opportunity to share struggles they’ve had with teaching specific social skills to their teens with special needs. Thank you Leslie for sharing your expertise in this important area for members of the community!

InKids holds free Spotlight Series workshops monthly with free childcare at the main site in Humble. If you are interested in attending a Spotlight Series workshop you can sign up to receive our monthly emails by contacting outreach@includingkids.org or check our website often for the workshops being offered (www.includingkids.org).