Should scripts be used to teach social skills?
I just finished reading an article about employing the use for scripts and script fading to teach social initiations in children with autism. The study taught three children, who in baseline exhibited zero social initiations, to read a text with a social initiation phrase such as, "Computer games are fun" while next to their peers.
With the use and fading of multiple exemplars and differential reinforcement, the children learned to say these phrases independently. The kids therefore increased their ability to initiate with peers from zero to a couple times per social session.
Is this a success?
My question would be what the result of that social initiation learned through a script was. Did the peers (listeners) readily respond? Did the participants in the study make mutually beneficial social connections because of it? Did the participants understand and agree with what the script said?
It's important to break social skills into discreet skills and teach them how our students learn best. And we should be reading the scientific literature to ensure we are employing evidence based strategies.
But not every procedure that works is necessarily the right one to use. There are multiple ways to teach the same skill.
On a practical level, as the adult who has direct interaction with our students, we need to always be cognizant of the big picture.
The friendship and the reciprocal connection is what we ultimately need to set as the over all goal to measure. Observe your students over time, communicate with parents and check in personally with your students in how they are feeling.
Make sure that the skills they are learning are directly benefiting them personally and in a larger social context.