Good communication skills are a big advantage across the lifespan, but students who have autism spectrum disorder often find social interaction challenging and, therefore, don’t always reach their potential.
Because communication skills are so valuable, Jennifer Schmitt, a high school teacher at Beavercreek High School in Beavercreek, OH, created a program for high school students intended to develop and strengthen social skills. The curriculum is designed around a human relations course and incorporates other students from the high school serving as peer coaches. Starting conversations, eye contact, and appropriate expressions are among the many social skills addressed in the program.
Jennifer later wrote a proposal to the Beavercreek administrators to launch the program districtwide. The proposal was accepted as a pilot program for the 2007-2008 school year. Since then, students have been reaping the benefits of this approach to developing/fostering social skills. Specifically, students report becoming able to make new friends, breaking out of their shells, and applying new strategies to dealing with social anxiety.
Schmidt’s book about the course is in the process of being published with AAPC Publishing and will be available as a resource for other educators hoping to start a similar communications class.
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