Monday, June 28, 2010

Social Skills Training with Children and Adolescents: Interview with Craig LeCroy, Ph.D.

[Episode 60]Today’s Social Work Podcast is on social skills training with children and adolescents. My guest, Craig Winston LeCroy defines social skills as “a complex set of skills that facilitate the successful interactions between peers, parents, teachers, and other adults” (LeCroy, 2009, 653). Social skills include everything from dress and behavior codes, to rules about what, when, and how to say or not to say something. Social skills training is a form of behavior therapy, and as such focuses on behaviors, rather than thoughts or feelings, as the targets for change. Traditional behavior modification is often thought of in terms of task completion, for example, using star charts to get kids to clean their rooms or do homework. But in social skills training, behavior modification principles are used to teach people skills that help them to be successful in social situations.

I encountered an example of social skills training last week with my 2 1/2 year old daughter. My daughter’s daycare is really good about letting us know what the kids did during the day. My wife and I often use that information as the basis for conversations with our daughter. During dinner, we’ll ask questions like, “Did anyone plant flowers today?” to which my daughter has typically has yelled out an enthusiastic, “me!” Last week we were playing this game and I asked, “Did anyone pretend to be a train today?” For the first time since she could talk, my daughter sat there in silence. Was she ignoring my question? No. She was answering my question non-verbally. She was raising her hand. My wife and I were shocked. You’re probably not shocked to learn that at home, my wife and I don’t raise our hands in response to questions. So, who is teaching her to raise her hand? The next day, I went to pick her up from preschool, a classroom that she transitioned into about three weeks ago. The class was sitting in a circle and her teacher was asking the class questions. My daughter and her little friends were all answering by raising their hands. Clearly this is where she had learned this very specific social skill – that you answer questions by raising your hand, not by shouting. I don’t know how her teacher did it, but I suspect that she used basic behavior modification strategies such as explaining the new behavior, modeling it, and consistently reinforcing it by rewarding those who did it, and punishing (either by calling out or ignoring) those who did not. I also suspect that my daughter learned by watching her older classmates do it. While part of me was sad to see that my daughter’s enthusiastic “me” had been converted into a very calm, silent, and socially acceptable raised hand, another part of me understood that becoming Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter was not in her best interest.

Now, I can tell you that when I was working with kids who were getting expelled for talking back to their teachers, arrested for provoking the cops, or getting beaten up because they managed to say exactly the wrong thing to the wrong person, hearing a parental anecdote about a toddler raising her hand would have left me wanting just a little bit more. So I asked one of social work’s leading experts, Craig Winston LeCroy, professor of social work at Arizona State University, to talk with us about social skills training for children and adolescents. Professor LeCroy has developed and tested social skills prevention and intervention programs, including a social skills-based prevention program for adolescent girls (“Empowering Adolescent Girls”), a social skills program for training home visitors (LeCroy & Whitaker, 2005), and an empirically based treatment manual outlining a social skills program for middle school students (LeCroy, 2008). In today’s interview, Craig defines social skills training and emphasizes fit between social skills training and the ecological and strengths orientation of social work. He talks about the how social workers can effectively train youth in social skills, giving particular emphasis to the concepts of overlearning, role playing and modeling. He talks about providing skills training in groups, as well as an alternative to traditional expressive play therapy - individual child skill therapy. Craig emphasizes that successful social skills training requires knowledge of specific situations and can therefore be very culturally responsive. He talks about how early social skills training programs focused on juvenile delinquency, and discusses some of the existing evidence, particularly around modeling, to support social skills training as an effective intervention. Craig talks about his current research on using social skills in a universal prevention program with adolescent girls called “Empowering Adolescent Girls.” We finish our conversation with a discussion of resources around social skills training.

Interview questions:
  • What is social skills training?
  • Who are some of the folks that it is used with – who are the target populations?
  • Could you give some examples of what it is and how it’s done?
  • Are the skills that you work on specific to a given diagnosis, or is it not diagnosis specific?
  • How are social skills taught and how would one go about learning how to teach them?
  • What research is out there that supports social skills training as an effective intervention for working with kids?
  • We’ve talked about some resources in the last couple of minutes – your Handbook of Evidence-Based Treatment Manuals for Children and Adolescents (LeCroy, 2008), and the Empowering Adolescent Girls (LeCroy, 2001) manual through W.W. Norton. Are there other resources that you think listeners should know about?
One quick word about today’s social work podcast: I recorded it using a Zoom H2 recorder on location at the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) annual conference. If you listen closely you can hear the sounds of San Francisco in the background: a clock chiming, busses loading and unloading passengers, and even some pigeons congregating outside of the interview room. They don’t detract from the interview, but I wanted to give fair warning in case you were listening to this podcast anywhere were those sounds might be cause for alarm.

So, without further ado, on to Episode 60 of the Social Work Podcast, Social Skills Training with Children and Adolescents: Interview with Craig LeCroy, Ph.D.

Download MP3 [28:42]


Bio
Craig Winston LeCroy, Ph.d. is Professor of Social Work at Arizona State University. He is the author of over 100 scholarly publications including 10 previous books. Professor LeCroy has developed and tested social skills interventions in both prevention and intervention programs. For example, he developed a social skills based prevention program for adolescent girls (LeCroy, Empowering adolescent girls, W. W. Norton), a social skills program for training home visitors (LeCroy & Whitaker, 2005), and developed an empirically based treatment manual outlining a social skills program for middle school students (Social Skills Training in LeCroy, Handbook of Evidence Based Treatment Manuals, Oxford University Press). Professor LeCroy has directed numerous child and adolescent projects including an NIMH Training Grant, a substance abuse prevention grant, and a universal prevention program for adolescent girls. He is currently directing an evaluation project of home visitation services for at-risk families

Contact
Craig Winston LeCroy, Ph.D.
Arizona State University
School of Social Work Tucson Component
340 N. Commerce Park Loop Suite
250 Tucson, AZ 85745
office (520) 884-5507 xt. 15
fax (520) 884-5949
craig.lecroy@asu.edu
http://ssw.asu.edu/portal/about-us/faculty-staff/faculty-profiles/craig-w-lecroy  

References and resources
These references were provided by Craig LeCroy.


APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast:
Singer, J. B. (Host). (2010, June 28). Social skills training with children and adolescents: Interview with Craig Winston LeCroy, Ph.D. [Episode 60]. Social Work Podcast. Podcast retrieved Month Day, Year, from http://www.socialworkpodcast.com/2010/06/social-skills-training-interview-with.html

3 comments:

LBSW said...

Very interesting stuff. I am so glad I discovered this podcast. Thanks for all the interesting interviews and discussions you have about all things social work. I am an MSW student as well as a hospice social worker, and I drive around a lot for work, school, and my practicum. It is so nice to have something this enlightnening to listen to during my day. Keep it up.

socialworkhelps.blogspot.com

Darsan clincia said...

Wow, really very interesting about social skills and clinical trainings. Thank yous o much for sharing this nice information with us. Good stuff....

Darsan clincia said...

Wow, really very interesting about social skills and clinical trainings. Thank yous o much for sharing this nice information with us. Good stuff....