Programs 2017-06-09T17:26:33+00:00



At the Center for Social Dynamics (CSD), we use an evidence-based approach that treats the social-emotional affects associated with the medical diagnosis of ASD. The following is an outline of treatment areas, targeted in the social skills groups.

1. Social Communication – the main goal is to increase the functional use of language and communication in all natural settings.
2. Emotional Regulation – the focus here is to expand an individual’s capacity to manage his/her responses to internal and/or external stimuli by using cognitive behavioral techniques. Other communication-related target areas may involve improving an individual’s ability to recognize and label facial expressions.
3. Theory of Mind (ToM): Children on the autism spectrum tend to display deficits in a key skill area called Theory of Mind, which is a system for inferring the full range of mental states from behavior (Baron-Cohen, 1995). Within CSD social skill groups, trained clinicians design treatments which target this area of functioning.
4. Improving Problem Behavior through Effective Social Communication – to address this, CSD uses visual supports, role-play, and high-interest activities to teach individuals two important concepts: 1) how their behavior affects other people, and 2) what choices people may make based on the behavior they encounter.
5. Modifying Social Environments or Using Techniques to Increase Communication – this may involve teaching parents, caregivers, or teachers concepts such as communicative temptations, which entice a child to ask for help or initiate a communicative interaction.
6. Multimodal Supports – these are tools such as visuals, icons, picture schedules, or modified communication styles, all of which appeal to the child’s interests and assist in learning.
7. Learning and Playing with Peers – within group-based instruction, SLPs, Behaviorists, and OTs collaborate, facilitate and/or teach skills, which allow children with ASD to interact naturally with their peers through play or other developmentally functional activities.
8. Goals – all goals must be functional, family oriented, developmentally appropriate, and measurable.
9. Meaningful and Purposeful Activities – skill-based tasks (matching, motor imitation, etc.) frequently fail to address what children with ASD encounter in their natural environments. Activities that do not take into account what is meaningful for a child may exacerbate behavior problems and prevent the individual from generalizing what he/she has learned into multiple environments. Activities should be integrated into a child’s routines – that is, he or she should be able to use skills learned in a natural setting. Further, activities should have a natural sequence, with clear beginnings and endings — offering some flexibility where needed (games, art, etc.)

  • Planned Activities – these are intended to teach specific skills, such as following eye gaze or reading facial expressions, by using multiple learning opportunities whose eventual aim is to instruct independent mastery.
  • Engineered Activities and Environments – these may not occur naturally in a child’s environment, but they are designed to provide familiar, consistent, and predictable formats for addressing treatment goals. The goal of these activities is to provide routines that allow the child to practice and maintain skills.
  • Modified Natural Activities and Environments – these provide a student an opportunity to apply new skills in different contexts; this is an important step toward generalizing skills.
  • Naturally Occurring Events and Environments – this aspect of intervention largely involves parent training. Parents can then help their children demonstrate new communication skills within the community (introductions, eye gaze, body language, etc.).
  • Communicative Temptations – these techniques, developed by Wetherby and Prizant (1989), encourage communication. Most importantly, CSD clinicians teach parents how to use these techniques at home.
  • Balanced Turn-Taking – this involves a child and an adult or peer participating in a balanced, back-and-forth fashion to increase the length of attention and engagement. (Greenspan, 1997).
  • Playful Construction/Obstruction – in this approach, clinicians seek to transform a child’s solitary play into a social interaction.
  • Playful Negotiation – during problem-solving activities, clinicians encourage back-and-forth interactions during problem-solving situation.

10. The Function or Purpose of the Communicative Behavior: All autism-focused social communication groups seek to increase each patient’s communicative and social behavior by improving the following areas:

  • Expressive language skills involve abilities such as talking or writing – essentially what a person produces to communicate.
  • Receptive language skills determine how, and to what degree, a person understands language. These abilities include reading and listening.
  • Pragmatic skills, as defined by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), involve the following:
    • Using language for different purposes such as greeting, informing, or demanding;
    • Changing language according to the needs of the listener or situation by talking or speaking differently;
    • Following communication rules for conversations and storytelling – such as maintaining a topic under discussion and reading body language for non-verbal communication.
  • Communicative Competence/Social-Behavioral Improvement – CSD groups treat social behavior by improving communication skills.

The following concepts are the main focus of our program.

  • Identify Strengths: The young adults in our programs have helped us to improve services to every client at CSD, even our 8 year olds. One of the most important lessons these young adults have given us is the importance of identifying personal strengths. The tricky issue for young people with ASD is that this process of self-awareness often comes later than it does for their neuro-typical peers. You can help your son or daughter better understand their strengths and that is an important contribution to their transition process. If they are honing in on a specific topic or activity, acknowledge their ability to maintain a high level of focus. Catch them doing well and remind them that they possess kindness. Point out their loyalty, integrity and consistency. Then, let them know how those traits will be valued in the adult world.
  • Practice Flexibility: One of the greatest differences between individuals with ASD and their peers is their challenge in being flexible and adapting to new situations. In both groups the transition to adulthood contains many uncertainties. However, the young adult with ASD will have a more difficult time adjusting to the new environment. The antidote is to try new things. While it can certainly take a lot of pre-planning for the middle school or high school student with ASD, any new setting or experience can increase the student’s ability to handle change during their post-high school experience. Taking an audited community college course on ‘Paranormal Activity’. Trying an instrument. Volunteering or interning in a business. All of these pursuits will help the student with ASD build comfort with new settings and experiences and will help prepare them for their adult life.
  • Build Self-Accountability: Young people with ASD often find it difficult to identify their internal motivation. Yet in the context of preparing for the adult world, the intrinsic pride of achieving a good academic grade is more important than any concrete reward (i.e., screen time) a student might earn. As providers and parents we have to take more steps to help students with ASD build internal motivation and pursue self-directed goals. The approach inherent in ABA therapy may be valid for younger clients and those more significantly impacted by ASD, but for older clients with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, the ABA emphasis on external rewards and goals developed by the provider (and not the young person) does not build self-accountability and may actually inhibit it. Instead, we can empower ASD teenager and young adults by helping them become better connected to their own personal motivations and goals.
  • Communicate and Self-Advocate: We often think of ‘social skills’ as the ability to interact with friends, but in the context of the young adult transition it takes on broader meaning. As young people with ASD approach their transition, they need to implement some of their new social skills to increase communication with professors, employers and others in the adult world. Self-advocating and communicating to solve conflicts is something that we take for granted. If a teenager with ASD can practice self-advocacy with a teacher, they are building skills that will serve them well in the young adult transition. Similarly, if the teenager can identify and pursue independent social opportunities, they will be building important communication skills for the less structured social world that exists after high school.
    While your patient’s transition to independence may take longer than some of their peers, it is important to remember that it is not a race. The values and skills that you have helped your child build are what matter the most.
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