Targeting social deficits in ASD

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by three core deficits: difficulty with communication, issues with repetitive behaviors (stimming) and social competence.  Researchers at the University of Missouri are developing a social competence curriculum with a virtual classroom component, designed to facilitate disorder-specific assistance.

Stichter’s team developed this curriculum in an after-school formant; it is now being tested during the school day.  Stichter’s curriculum focuses on specific needs and behavioral traits within the autism spectrum.

Stichter says, “At MU, we’ve worked to develop intervention to meet specific needs, similar to a medical model for treating cancer: doctors don’t use one treatment model for all forms of cancer.”

Stichter’s curriculum will help insure that doctors do not treat all forms of ASD with a single treatment model, either.  Her curriculum almost enitrely focuses on social competence, as the ability to communicate effectively helps children achieve in the classroom and in the workplace.  Because high-functioning children on the autism spectrum tend to struggle with “determining and managing goals, understanding others’ feelings and regulating emotions,[…] Stichter’s curriculum focuses the student on recognizing facial expressions, sharing ideas, taking turns, exploring feelings and emotions and problem-solving” (Science Daily).  Strengthening these skills will significantly increase students’ social competency, thereby affecting not only their social lives, but also their overall educational experience.

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