Social Skills Training

Social Skills Training

What is Social Skills Training?

Social Skills Training (SST) refers to a wide range of interventions and instructional methods used to help an individual understand and improve social skills. Sometimes referred to as social skills groups, SST is often associated with the fields of applied behavior analysis, special education, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and relationship-based therapies. A variety of professionals implement SST, including teachers, behavior analysts, psychologists, therapists, and autism support professionals.  Research also suggests that parents can train to implement SST programs effectively.

Is SST evidence-based? 

According to the National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice (NCAPE), social skills training is an evidence-based method for teaching social skills. To be considered evidence-based, researchers and provider professionals have published sufficient and quality research showing that social skills training results in improved outcomes for individuals with ASD.

Examples of evidence-based strategies to teach social skills:

  • Discrete -Trial – this approach has been used to teach basic language. A discrete trial has at least 4 components: a cue, prompt, behavior, and reinforcement.
  • Incidental Teaching – this approach capturing learning opportunities as its occurring rather than contrived or a structured lesson.
  • Generalization of Skills – Opportunities to practice the skills can be created in various settings

Different types of Social Skills Training

As mentioned above, there is no one-size-fits-all format for social skills programs. Individuals with ASD have a wide range of skills, so finding an SST program that fits well for each child is essential. To describe how SST programs can differ, here are four different types of SST:

Peer Mediated Instruction and Interventions – In peer-mediated instruction and intervention (PMII), children without an associated diagnosis are trained to be ‘peer mentors’ or ‘peer tutors.’ The peer mentors are then assigned a series of tasks to work with classmates with ASD, including how to facilitate social and play interactions. PMI programs also structure the physical environment of a classroom or clinic to promote social interactions.

Social Stories and Scripts – Social stories and scripts are one SST method that involves describing a particular social concept using written or visual materials. Social stories and scripts can be customized to capture the strengths and motivations of a specific individual. There is limited evidence that social stories alone assist children with ASD in learning social skills.

Instead, social stories work best when combined with role-playing, peer-intervention, or rehearsal models where the individual practices and receives feedback on performance.

Video Modeling – One of the most effective social skills training methods involves using video as a tool to teach social concepts. In video modeling, the individual watches a video demonstration of a behavior and then attempts to perform the social skill immediately after. Videos can be of other children or adults engaging with others, or videos of the individual can be collected and watched later.

Social Skill Training improves social skill interaction and can be taught individually or an a social group.

SST Techniques:

  • Behavioral rehearsal: Role play which involves practicing new skills during therapy in simulated situations
  • Corrective feedback: Used to help improve social skills during practice
  • Instruction: The educational component of SST that involves the modeling of appropriate social behaviors
  • Positive reinforcement: used to reward improvements in social skills
  • Weekly homework assignments: Provide the chance to practice new social skills outside of therapy

Examples of Skills targeted in SST:

  • Initiating conversation
  • Sustaining conversation
  • Appropriate Eye Contact
  • Being assertive
  • Empathy
  • Communicating Non-Verbally (e.g. Understanding emotions, Gesture, Facial expressions)
  • Communicating Verbally
  • Making Introductions
  • Practicing Active Listening
  • Overcoming Telephone Phobia
  • Accepting and Giving Compliments

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Baker, J. (2006). The Social Skills Picture Book: For high school and beyond. Future Horizons.

Cuncic, A. (2020, June 30). An overview of social skills training. Verywell Mind. Retrieved June 12, 2022, from

What is Social Skills Training (SST) and when is it used? Applied Behavior Analysis Programs Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2022, from