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Course Overview

Communication and Social Skills in ASD

May 8, 2023 - August 18, 2023

By participating in this online course, you will gain an understanding of the communication and social skills characteristics of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), become familiar with some evidence-based practices to address communication and social skill deficits, and learn to match these interventions to the unique characteristics of this diverse population.

  • Registration Instructions
  • Course registration is a two-step process: 1) Register on AIM and 2) Register and pay on Ashland University's system. Once you have completed this two-step process, this course will be available to you on AIM at the start of the semester, May 8, 2023.

    If you have questions about this course or the registration process, please contact the course instructor, Amy Bixler-Coffin at
  • Registration Details
  • Course registration open April 17, 2023 - July 21, 2023
  • 1-Credit course costs $225 paid to Ashland University
Course Modules

Language and Communication

Estimated Time to Complete: 2 hours

Autism is a complex spectrum of disorders characterized by:

(1) differences in the development of social interaction and communication skills, and

(2) atypical patterns of restricted, repetitive behaviors and interests.

Autism looks very different in each individual with the diagnosis. Some individuals communicate in atypical ways, while others use limited ways to communicate basic needs. Impairments in the development of social and communication skills profoundly impact every aspect of an individual's ability to learn and function. Our understanding of the social and communication impairments is essential to learning how to help and teach individuals with autism.

Overview of Social Skills and Intervention Strategies

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 1/2 hours

Difficulties with social skills and developing social relationships is a key diagnostic characteristic of autism spectrum disorders, and is often an enduring and pervasive issue throughout the life of a person on the autism spectrum. Previous research has demonstrated a clear link between social skill deficits and numerous negative developmental outcomes. The development of effective social interaction skills is critical to successful social, emotional, language, and cognitive development, yet research on social skills programming has produced conflicting results related to the effectiveness of many social skill interventions. The purpose of this module is to provide an overview of the common social skill difficulties exhibited by individuals on the autism spectrum and to provide a summary of effective social skill intervention strategies to promote skill acquisition and enhance the performance of existing social skills. 

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

Estimated Time to Complete: 2 1/2 hours

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) has been used to help children and youth with ASD develop a system for communicating with teachers, parents, and peers across multiple environments. PECS was initially developed as an alternative communication system and has since been demonstrated in the research literature to promote speech development and production. This module will define PECS, outline the steps to effectively implement this evidence-based practice, and provide specific examples for its use across settings and age groups.

Social Narratives

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour

Social narratives are visually represented stories that describe social situations and socially appropriate responses or behaviors to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) understand social situations in a new way and to help them to acquire and use appropriate social skills. The term social narratives may be defined as a specific strategy (see guidelines below) but also as a group of additional interventions that are similar in that they address social understanding but differ in the specific procedures utilized. In this module we will first describe the specific ten-step strategy to creating social narratives that address a specific behavior concern. We will then provide a brief overview of other social narrative strategies.

Social Skills Training Through Social Skills Groups

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 1/2 hours

Difficulty with social skills is often a significant challenge for those on the autism spectrum. These challenges lead to difficulty communicating with others and with making and keeping friends. Social skills groups (SSGs) are used to teach individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) ways to appropriately interact with typically developing peers. A wide range of social skills may be taught through SSGs. In this module, step-by step instructions consisting of ten steps are provided to help teachers/practitioners use existing resources to implement social skills group instruction that is based on informal needs assessment and data collection for identified goals.    


Social Supports for Transition-Aged Individuals

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 1/2 hours

Transitioning from school to adult life is a time of significant change and heightened stress. However, because resistance to change and delayed social development are common characteristics of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), transition can be particularly frustrating. This module will explore research-based practices and predictors designed to address the specific needs of transition-aged individuals with ASD and their families in the realm of social skills.

Speech Generating Devices (SGD)

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 1/2 hours

Many individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulty developing and using verbal speech to communicate with others. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a set of procedures and processes that can maximize communication. AAC systems include those that are unaided such as sign language, and those that are aided. Speech generating devices (SGD) are considered an aided technique. SGDs, an evidence-based intervention, offer the advantage of spoken language for individuals who use them. This module will provide information on SGDs.

Using Special Interests in the Classroom

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour

One common characteristic of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the frequent engagement in repetitive and restricted patterns, or special interests. Although these special interests may appear to prevent new learning opportunities for people with ASD, recent research has proved that incorporating special interests into daily activities may increase both social and academic behaviors. This module will present several examples of how to embed special interests into interventions to increase desired behaviors.

Video Modeling

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 1/2 hours

Video modeling is a teaching method that uses technology as the core component of instruction. Video modeling uses brief videos of either the individual being taught or other models (e.g., peers, siblings, etc.) performing some target skill/behavior or sequence of skill/behaviors. Then the learner watches the video before practicing the target skill/behavior. Very often the same technology is used to record and show the video (e.g., smart phone, iPad, etc.). In this module you will learn about the foundations of video modeling, the evidence-base that supports its use, why this practice matches well with autistic characteristics and strengths, and most importantly, how to plan, implement and evaluate video modeling interventions.