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.
- 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?
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]
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
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
References and resources
These references were provided by Craig LeCroy.
- Bloomquist, M (2006). Skills training for children with behavior problems, revised edition: A parent and practitioners guidebook. New York: Guilford Press.
- Dunn, M. A. (2005). S.O.S. social skills in our schools: A social skills program for children with pervasive developmental disorder, including high functioning autism and asperger syndrome, and their typical peers. Shawnee Mission, Kansas: Autism Asperger Publishing.
- Elias, M. J., & Clabby, J. F. (1992). Building social problem-solving skills. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
- Gresham, F. M., Cook, C. R., Crews, S. D. (2004). Social skills training for children and youth with emotional and behavioral disorders: Validity considerations for future directions. Behavior Disorders, 30, 32-46.
- Goldstein, A., & McGinnis, E. (1997). Skillstreaming the adolescent: New strategies and perspectives for teaching prosocial skills. Champaign, IL: Research Press.
- Kazdin, A. E., Siegel, T. C., & Bass, D. (1992). Cognitive problem-solving skills training and parent management training in the treatment of antisocial behavior in children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 733-747.
- King, C. A., & Kirschenbaum, D. S. (1992). Helping young children develop social skills. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
- LeCroy, C. W. (2008). Social skills training. In C. LeCroy (Ed.), Handbook of evidence-based child and adolescent treatment manuals(2nd ed.). New Oxford University Press.
- LeCroy, C. W. & Daley, J. (2001). Empowering adolescent girls: Examining the present and building skills for the future with the Go Grrrls program. New York: W.W. Norton.
- LeCroy, C. W. (2009). Child therapy and social skills. In A. R. Roberts & G. J. Greene (Eds.). Social Workers Desk Reference (pp.406-412). New York: Oxford University Press.
- LeCroy, Craig W., & Archer, J. (2001). Teaching social skills: A board game approach. In C. Schaefer & S. E. Reid (Eds.), Game play: Therapeutic use of childhood games. New York: John Wiley.
- Michelson, L., Sugai, D. P., & Kazdin, A. E. (2007). Social skills assessment and training with children: An empirically based handbook. New York: Springer.
- Oden, S. L., & Asher, S. R. (1977). Coaching low accepted children in social skills: A follow-up sociometric assessment. Child Development, 48, 496–506.
Strayhorn, J. (1988). The competent child. New York: Guilford Press.
- Research Press titles on Social Skills Training, and the Skillstreaming curriculae by Dr. Arnold Goldstein.
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