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How to Teach Social Skills

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) need well-planned lessons which clearly teach social skills. It is also important to provide structured, supported opportunities to practise newly learned social skills.

It is helpful to plan short social skills sessions with the student. An excellent approach to teaching social skills is the Gradual Release of Responsibility model. 


The term “gradual release of responsibility” was first used by Pearson, P.D. & Gallagher, M. (1983) “The Instruction of Reading Comprehension,” Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8, p. 317-344.


It can be helpful to introduce a new social skill during a mini-lesson in a small group or on a one-to-one basis. However, it is critically important that social skills are taught and supported during the entire school day, not compartmentalised into a stand-alone session.

Following the Mini-lesson:

  • Give the student multiple opportunities to practise the skill in a low-risk, supported environment such as during a small-group activity in class.
  • Provide feedback on the student’s efforts and support the student to ask questions. This may be more appropriately done in private.
  • Assist the student to identify situations which are appropriate for applying the new skill.
  • Wherever possible (and appropriate) the student should be supported school-wide by all teachers to try their new skill in a variety of school contexts.

The student may require many sessions focusing on the same social skill before they develop the confidence to try it in other situations.