School counsellors often receive referrals for students who are having difficulty fitting in due to issues involving communication. These issues can be related to conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder or other disorders. Recently, I read an article that addressed the importance of collaborating with other professionals to address these types of deficits. The article pointed out that tackling problems related to communication can require ongoing support and that interaction with school counsellors is typically time limited, so having ongoing professional supports in place is vital for any lasting change. Two groups of professionals were singled out in the article as essential supports for students with communication difficulties. Speech Language Pathologists were mentioned for their expertise on the social use of language and Special Education teachers because they are likely in a position with the student to implement, practice, and reinforce communication skills and strategies.
The article outlined six common skill deficits as well as strategies school counsellors could follow when working with students on communication issues. In preparation for working on the communication issues it was noted that the school counsellor should identify the student’s social strengths and weaknesses and then prioritize which areas of deficits to target and subsequent strategies would be most beneficial to tackle during the counsellor’s time with the student. Additional strategies can be delegated to other professional members of the support team or assigned to parents or caregivers.
Common Deficits and Strategies
1. Deficit: Recognizing Personal Space
Strategies: (a) use a hula hoop around the student to demonstrate appropriate personal space; (b) role play different conversation differences; (c) use puppets to practice personal space distances.
2. Deficit: Reading Faces and Body Language
Strategies: (a) use clip art to practice identifying emotions in pictures; (b) role play different scenarios and have the student identify what emotion is being acted out or what emotion would belong with the event.
3. Deficit: Understanding How Self Appears to Others
Strategies: (a) use comic strip conversations and have the student fill in the bubbles about how others may perceive or react to inappropriate social behaviours; (b) perform a social autopsy to help students learn from mistakes and successes.
4. Deficit: Rigid Adherence to Routine
Strategies: (a) create a visual schedule for the day using items that can be moved around on the schedule so that the student can adjust for changes to routines.
5. Deficit: Meltdowns When Frustrated or Upset
Strategies: (a) create a power card that is a visual depiction of the desired behaviour or solution to the problem; (b) use a social story that presents the student calming down when upset; (c) have a cool down spot as a non-punitive option.
6. Deficit: Difficulty Entering, Exiting and Maintaining Conversation
Strategies: (a) practice each of the above elements of conversation separately.
McCalley, C. (2010). Fix Six Social Deficits: Collaborating with speech therapists and classroom teachers can lead to much more effective ways of addressing social skills for students with autism spectrum disorder. ASCS School Counselor, 48 (1), 23-25.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA