Positive social interaction is a daily occurrence for most individuals and critically related to social success. Individuals with autism, due to the nature of the disorder, often have great difficulty when interacting with others. A lack of relationship-building skills and social reciprocity often interfere with their successful integration into community and family activities. As such, individuals with autism often face potential social isolation. Active teaching of responses that increase an individual’s success during all social exchanges is necessary to remediate the deficits of individuals with autism. Prosocial responses, such as polite verbalizations, sharing, offering assistance, and the display of empathy are likely to increase an individual’s success during a social exchange. These responses demonstrate an awareness of a social partner, lead to increased levels of positive interaction and reinforcement, and set the occasion for future social interaction. Research has demonstrated that behavioral teaching strategies, such as modeling (both in-vivo and video), script and script-fading, manual guidance, behavior rehearsals, and contingent reinforcement have been effective at increasing prosocial responses. Such outcomes, in combination with efforts focused on producing generalized behavioral repertoires that maintain over time, substantiate that these responses are subject to behavioral principles. That is, by teaching individuals with autism to attend to relevant discriminative stimuli and to respond in the presence of those (and similar) stimuli, they are more likely to be prepared for successful social exchanges. This, in turn, will maximize their successful integration and long-term success in social contexts.
Review Dawn Buffington Townsend’s biographical statement.