Autism social skills curriculum goes global

A manual that provides lessons and hands-on activities for children with autism to learn essential social skills is now benefiting a new audience – young people in Taiwan.

Judith Coucouvanis, MA, APRN, BC, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and clinical specialist at the U-M Department of Psychiatry, wrote Super Skills: A Social Skills Group Program for Children with Asperger Syndrome, High-functioning Autism and Related Challenges (AAPC Publishing, 2005) so that children on the autism spectrum – who often struggle with basic social functioning – can succeed in the social realm.

Above: a Super Skills training workshop in Taiwan

Coucouvanis’ book was recently translated into Chinese and implemented in a series of trainings for educators, therapists, and parents by Dr. Yiing-Feng Hwang, a physician in Tiachung City, Taiwan. Dr. Hwang reported that participants were extremely “satisfied and encouraged” following the workshop instruction, and eager to bring the manual’s lessons to life with elementary-aged students.

Since its publication, the book has been used across the U.S. by teachers in a variety of educational settings, speech therapists, counselors, social workers, and others leading formal social skills training courses. Parents often use individual lessons for skill building with their own children. This recent extension of Super Skills is one indication of the curriculum’s appeal across cultures who may differ from one another in many ways, but whose children with autism share similar struggles in functioning socially.

The book’s lessons are organized under four types of skills necessary for social success: fundamental skills, social initiation skills, getting along with others, and social response skills, and they are presented in such a way that even inexperienced teachers and other group leaders can follow and implement them successfully. A series of practical checklists and other instruments provide a solid foundation for assessing students’ social skills levels and subsequent program planning.

Coucouvanis is also the author of The Potty Journey: Guide to Toilet Training Children with Special Needs, which was a gold medal winner in the 2010 National Parenting Publications Award’s (NAPPA) Parenting Resources Competition.