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Generalisation of Social Skills in the Real World

Social skills can be described as initiating and reciprocating interactions, understanding non-verbal communication and managing anxiety associated with social interactions.   Social skill deficits that have not been addressed can have a long term negative impact on a child’s life including difficulties around employment, maintaining friendships and mental health.   Social skills development is a frequently implemented intervention for children with Autism. Breaking a social skill into small steps and emphasising cues to use the skill is helpful for children experiencing difficulties in this area.

Once a social skill to learn has been identified and practiced in a clinic, training and follow-up in a child’s natural setting through the use of multiple examples across people and settings will likely contribute to improved generalisation.  A teacher or parent could model the skill and then encourage the child to do it next time (e.g. asking another child to join in a game, smiling and saying hello at a shop).   It is imperative that parents are aware of the social skills being targeted so they can coach and reinforce social skills in a variety of settings.

Peers at school are also very effective to help teach and encourage the use of social skills.  This method will need careful monitoring by a trained staff member at school and have the agreement of the selected peers.

Some schools use video modelling to show the child using the skill appropriately and how others react to it (this is usually initially set up by the adult).


Radley KC, Jenson, WR, Sprick, R (2013) Evidence-Based Strategies to promote generalization of social skills in the real world. Autism Spectrum Quarterly  Fall.  11-15pp.