Friday, July 22, 2011

Best Practice Book Review: Social Literacy: A Social Skills Seminar for Young Adults with ASDs, NLDs, and Social Anxiety

Although there has been a significant increase in research and clinical studies related to children and with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), we have only recently begun to appreciate the complex challenges faced by adults who were not identified in childhood and are presently an underserved population. Social Literacy: A Social Skills Seminar for Young Adults with ASDs, NLDs, and Social Anxiety  by Mary Riggs Cohen is a book and CD set that provide an evidence-based social skills curriculum for more capable young adults with social learning needs and life transition issues (e.g., college, work, interpersonal relationships). 

The Social Skills Seminar incorporates the basic principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with the overarching goal of developing social and communicative competency through direct teaching, modeling, coaching, role-playing, and practice activities. The book covers the background and structure for conducting a social skills training course over a 12-week period, meeting once each week for 3-hour class sessions. Beginning with an introduction, the author takes the reader through a discussion of the neurobiology of social learning disorders and the theoretical foundations of program design. Subsequent chapters include the selection, training, and use of social coaches, understanding of nonverbal communication, improving conversational skills, interpersonal relationships and dating, and employment issues and interviewing skills. A template is provided for each class and includes objectives, exercises, and applicable handouts. The final chapters describe efficacy studies of social skills training and practical applications. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the seminar is the use of social coaches to enhance generalization to real world situations by engaging participants in experiential opportunities. Each participant is assigned an individual coach who provides feedback and support during the 12-week course. Chapter 3 of the book provides a description of the social coach selection process, a critical step that takes place prior to initiation of the program with participants.
The accompanying CD-ROM contains PowerPoint slides that provide a sequential format to the instructional portion of the class. Photocopiable handouts used in the class lessons are also included. As noted in the text, social coaches are an integral part of the seminar. Slides for preparing social coaches are included on the CD and provide essential training on social learning disorders, outcome measures, curriculum topics, and coaching activities. 
At present, there is a paucity of information about the educational and employment outcomes for more capable adults on the autism spectrum. This includes those in the general population who do not meet the threshold for a diagnosis but whose social problems impact their personal and social lives. However, it is clear that outcome depends to a large degree on the level and appropriateness of support provided to the individual. Social Literacy is the most comprehensive and evidence-based framework currently available for planning and executing a meaningful and effective social skills training program for young adults with social learning challenges. The program is designed to be flexible and can be adapted and modified to accommodate the specific needs of the participants. The publication of Social Literacy also provides an opportunity for researchers to investigate the effectiveness of social skills training in adult populations. I highly recommend this social learning course to professionals in private practice, secondary schools, colleges and universities, and community settings who work with young adults to help them navigate the social environment and achieve a successful transition to this stage of life.
Cohen, Mary Riggs (2011). Social literacy: A social skills seminar for young adults with ASDs, NLDs, and social anxiety. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

©lee A. Wilkinson

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