Teachers Perceptions of Social Skills instruction for students with Aspergers Syndrome
This study explores special education teachers’ perceptions and practices in the implementation of social skills instruction in their classrooms with students who have Aspergers Syndrome. Aspergers Syndrome is a neurological disorder that presents itself with deficits in social communication, imagination, and interaction. Although students with Aspergers are generally successful in academic subjects, they lack the social skills necessary to communication and interact with their peers. Poor outcomes in school and later in life are often noted.
Social skills training is defined as learned behaviors that are necessary to interact with adults and peers successfully in a majority of social situations including the school and community. Unlike most of the “typical” students, students with Aspergers Syndrome need instruction in social skills to be success in the school and community. Researchers have documented programs as well as strategies and interventions that have increased the social skills behaviors of students on the autism spectrum. This qualitative study consisted of semi-structured interviews with ten special education teachers. The results pertaining to teachers’ perceptions of social skills instruction indicated teachers believe social skills instruction to be just as important as academic instruction for students with Aspergers Syndrome. The majority of teachers indicated that a combination of direct and indirect instruction would be best for students with AS with six of the teachers providing the combination. Teachers reported it was difficult to incorporate social skills instruction into the classroom schedule since the high stakes testing has increased their instructional focus on drill and practice strategies for testing. The majority of teachers used non academic periods in the school day, such as recess or lunch to implement social skills instruction.
Teachers who provided special education services to their students in self contained and resource settings were more likely to teach direct social skills to their students with AS then teachers who teach in a co teaching setting. Support from administrators, regular and education teachers were reported as factors that enhance the implementation of social skills instruction. Parental advocacy was considered to play an important role in teachers’ implementation of social skills for students with AS.
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