A1: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), which usually begin during early childhood and last throughout a persons life, are a group of developmental disabilities that are caused by unusual brain development. ASDs include Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Asperger Disorder. These three conditions share symptoms, but differ in terms of when the symptoms start, how fast they appear, how severe they are and their exact nature. People with ASDs tend to have problems with social and communication skills, and have unusual ways of learning, paying attention or reacting to different sensations.
A2: The US National Institute of Health estimates that one American child in 88 is affected with an ASD, compared with one in 10,000 a decade ago. As many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism. The overall incidence is consistent around the globe, but is four times more prevalent in boys than girls. Its now estimated that one boy in 94 is diagnosed with autism.
A3: Unlike their peers, children with ASDs do not acquire basic social skills through general experience and observation, such as sharing enjoyment and maintaining eye contact. This social inadequacy often results in anxiety, depression, social avoidance, academic difficulties and problematic peer interactions. Social skills training uses problem-solving techniques to actively teach children the skills they need to be successful and cope with challenging situations in the social environment. Research has demonstrated that social skills training is one of the most effective treatments for children with ASDs and helps them to succeed in their personal and academic lives.
A4: Formal standardized tests can determine basic levels of social skills functioning, but it is also important to interview the childs caregiver and observe him interacting with his environment. Teachers can also play an important role by watching the child during unstructured activities such as recess, and by using support staff to make note of breakdown times.
A5: Social Skill Builder has created a series of learning tools which use real life video in computer assisted programs to teach social skills. The user is able to watch the video scenarios unfold and then make choices about what should be said or done next in a safe and controlled environment. These interactive features allow the child or adolescent to step inside familiar social situations to problem solve or predict outcomes. Motivating reinforcements and games make learning the social skills fun and entertaining. This unique training software provides a reference for language, behaviors and interactions that children can carry into the natural environment.
A6: The Social Skill Builder software products were developed by practicing speech pathologists and sisters Jennifer Jacobs M.S. CCC-SLP and Laurie Jacobs M.A. CCC-SLP. Both are clinically-certified members of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and have 25 years of experience improving childrens pragmatic skills in various environments. Jacobs and Jacobs create their products based on the unique needs of their ASD clients.
A7: Social Skill Builder software products are designed to facilitate learning while providing opportunities to pause and discuss information shown in social video, to replay scenarios for greater recall and understanding, and to engage in exercises that help the child carry learned skills into everyday life. Each program highlights video scenarios of real children interacting in social scenarios and then the user has the ability to choose what should be said or done next. Programs cater to a wide range of functioning and abilities. At Level 1, children learn key social vocabulary. At Level 2, they answer multiple-choice questions, and at Level 3, they identify social cues. Level 4 allows children to create a novel social response based on the situation. Addition levels in the My Community and School Rules! software allow children to compare and contrast and examine different aspects of Theory of Mind, which focuses on what others are thinking, feeling and perhaps going to say or do next.
A8: Social Skill Builders products are designed for speech and occupational therapists, special educators, resource teachers, counselors and psychologists, and parents who interact with children and adolescents ages 3-18 affected by ASDs and other learning/language deficits.
A9: Children who have used Social Skill Builder software products have exhibited increased confidence and acceptance of transitions in different social scenarios. Increased expressive language skills and decreased anxiety and negative behaviors have been noted in situations that once caused problems. After using the programs, children have been observed interacting more with others and displaying great understanding and empathy.
A10: A 2004 pilot study of Social Skill builders effectiveness conducted in the Virginia Public Schools indicated that the software dramatically increased ASD childrens socialization, daily living skills, adaptive behavior, and communication.
A11: Social Skill Builder software products offer animated reinforcers after each answered question. Products geared to school-age children and older teens provide interactive game reinforcements that appear after a series of social scenarios have been explored. Such motivators not only allow children to remain engaged, but also provide breaks throughout the game to keep them from becoming overwhelmed or frustrated.
A12: Because social interaction between people usually happens so quickly and naturally, it is hard to teach these skills to children with social competence difficulties. Social Skill Builder software programs allow children to dissect social situations in a safe and controlled environment, with the opportunity to replay scenarios for greater understanding. Such practice provides children with greater insight into social interactions and increases their confidence as they try out new skills in their real-world environments.