Steps in Assessing Social Skills Using Direct Observation

Steps in Assessing Social Skills Using Direct Observation

1. Determine the skills you wish to assess as described operationally. The following are examples of operational definitions of social skills.

· Conduct anecdotal reports.

· Taking turns: Student waits while other students take their turns in an activity; student participates without prompting when it is his turn.

· Initiating interactions with peers: Student stands 2 to 3 feet from peer; within 5 seconds of approach, student says peer’s name and makes a comment appropriate to the situation: asks a question, asks peer to play a game, asks to join a game, gives a compliment, and so on, and then waits for peer’s response.

· Responding to peers’ initiations: Given an initiation from a peer (question, invitation, etc.), student responds appropriately (answers question, says “yes” or “no” to the invitation, etc.) within 5 seconds.

· Playing with a friend: Student participates appropriately in an activity that requires turn taking or sharing with one or more peers (e.g., playing four square, jumping rope, playing a video game, playing a board game, using the slide).

2. Determine the most appropriate measurement system for each skill. For the skills previously described, appropriate measurement systems would include the following.

· Taking turns: Event recording

· Initiating interactions: Event recording

· Responding to peers’ initiations: Event recording (measure the SD [peer initiation] as well as the student’s response)

· Playing with a friend: Duration recording

3. Select a time and place to observe. Remember that you should observe when and where the skill is needed. Therefore, if you wish to increase a student’s participation in social interactions during recess, you should observe during recess.

4. As you observe your target student, collect data for the same skills on a typical peer selected at random. This will provide an indication of the level of socialization that may be required for successful participation (if this step has not been completed during the process of identifying target skills). Data on peers’ skills may also help determine a target criterion for your student(s).

· Once data have been gathered, the last step is to compare your student’s data against that of peers and then develop objectives for intervention.

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There may be circumstances in which you do not want to assess your students’ social behavior in authentic contexts. For example, if you have concerns that a student may exhibit challenging behaviors, especially aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, in the new or unfamiliar social context, then it would not be wise to place the child in that context to assess his or her social skills. For times when it is unwise or impractical to assess students’ social skills in real contexts, role-play assessment may be the preferred approach (Matson & Wilkins, 2007). Role-plays consist of adults playing the role of peers during target social activities (e.g., playing during recess, sharing a snack during a break between classes). The student’s social skill responses (or lack thereof) are recorded by the participating adults or by an observer (e.g., Ledbetter-Cho et al., 2016).

Another way to evaluate students’ use of social skills is with formal social and behavior scales. Table 7.3 lists commercially available scales in these areas. Note that some of these instruments have not been normed on students with autism and developmental delays but may provide helpful information, particularly about the student’s level of socialization in environments outside of school or progress in skill acquisition over time.

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