17 thoughts on “Why Social Skills Training Does Not Help Autistic People

  1. i recently attended a youtube session on gaslighting where the lecturer says the usual and anticipated that the gaslightee does not need to know why the gaslighter gaslighted the gaslightee. i was reminded again how that statement does not work for autistic people although i see it works well for neurotypical people. so this article arrived at a serendipitously fortuitous time in my thought processes. thank you.


  2. I felt triggered just reading the first item on that list and couldn’t even read any more of it! But your list of the red flags felt so good to read. We didn’t get that social support growing up, but posts like this help us recognize where we were unsupported and maybe forgive ourselves a bit, and they remind us that we don’t have to follow much of the advice designed for neurotypicals.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What’s Missing From Most Social Skills Training?

    There are several other answers: But a big one is Real Settings. A lot of interaction does not happen in the speech room. Socialziation takes knowledge of real social settings. There is a large RECREATION, LEISURE, ARTS, CULTURE, and HOSPITALITY components to socialization and much of that knowledge is activity specific. For example, the skills one needs to play on the playground are different from a play date at someone’s house, from a party, from a high school dance, from going out on a date. Very few studies address the hands-on realms of socialization, Plus the etiquette of one social setting is different from other social settings. Many studies failed to address this as well (writing a literature review on this).

    As an Autistic Individual myself, I was put over and over in speech therapy and realized that those word phrase games made no sense to learning how to socailize. I struggled with many of the hands-on realms as a child and later in life actually dissected the entire hidden curriculum from elementary school to graduate school one activity at a time. I also analysed the knowledge I didn’t know as a child in this realm.

    This is why I think there is a difference between masking and being a beginner at a social activity and I don’t think that all social learning is making. Instead, I think that sometimes learning new social settings and social activities can be helpful if one doesn’t know what to do in them. However, it should up to the person to choose whether to be taught this or not, and that neurotyupical persons should adapt too. But there is no harm in learning something that they want to learn in this realm . For example, I didn’t go to high school dances before 12th grdade because o one taught me how to dance. After I learned I realized dances are fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Melissa Fields, Autist and commented:
    For the love of God, all of this!!

    If you really want to understand autistic people, meet us where we are at. Stop tryna change us. Listen to us. Believe our stories and lived experiences.

    Being our neurodivergent selves Is. Perfectly. Okay.

    We aren’t broken.

    Tryna change who we are will just give us unneeded depression, trauma, and lead to us wanting to just give up.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. brilliant ! Spot on! I have really poor visual and audio processing and it is simply impossible to do the things that chart instructs in “real time”. My neurology simply can’t do it! I spent years punishing myself and getting punished for my poor performance. At age 68 I was diagnosed with autism and suddenly all those “whys” of my early life made sense. At least now I can understand why I continued to fail in any “real time” interactions. All the instruction and expectations in the world no matter how well meaning will not work if I am expected to do something my neurology is simply not capable of doing. I’d like this post a thousand times if the program would let me! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thank you for taking the time to provide such a thorough example of this perspective. It is validating and very helpful; I plan on sharing a link to this with many people.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. To be honest, I haven’t seen any ‘social skills’ training that doesn’t preference the comfort of allistic individuals over the rights of autistic people, nor which doesn’t try to teach us to mask our natural behaviours.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m glad you posted your thoughts on this and very glad the broader community is having these conversations around social skills in general. Social Behavior Mapping is not a social skills tool – or at least it was never meant to be used in that way. It is a way for people to look at their own expectations – from their lens. This map was co-developed by autistic students who had strong expectations for others and it was meant for them to understand the situation and how to define their expectations of others and how to understand why they were having emotions around others behaviors. It is supposed to be filled out from the lens of the observer (autistic or non-autistic) person – what are your expectations of others – not what do other people expect from you. Some people have used the examples of filled-out maps as “scripts” but that was never the purpose. People who just want to teach social skills are doing it wrong. Your red flags above are only if a NT person is filling it out. If an neurodivergent person is filling it out then it is only about their thoughts and feelings related to others actions or reactions. It is a thinking map – not a social skills map. It is also often used to show that behaviors can be situation dependent. For example, yelling is absolutely expected in some situations (sports, anger, getting attention from afar) and not in other situations (funeral, ICU, etc.). Pacing is expected in some situations (anxiety, excitement, exercise) and not in other situations (eye exam, dental work). Social Behavior maps are now being used in schools to teach NT kids and teachers that everyone (including neurodivergents) have expectations and emotions related to what others do and say. In other words, this is not about a NT standard, but rather about having honest conversations about how we all view the world though our own lens and we all have feelings that may or may not be the same, addressing the double empathy problem so many people are talking about today.


    1. so, you`re saying there`s another version of that social behaviour mapping form that makes sense to and for autistics ? because that one is very clearly written for people who are not autistic. if autistics could think about what people were doing nonverbally, they wouldn`t be autistic. sure, i can think back and try to remember if i noticed what the person was doing with their eyes, mouth, nose, cheeks, hands, arms, legs, feet and torso… and i might remember a few of them. more likely one or two. and it would be interesting to note that those things have some meaning. some of which i might be able to memorise. but that wouldn`t make me able to actually engage with those nonverbal actions while simultaneously trying to navigate a conversation with someone. and especially not if there was more than one someone. i`ve been able to deliberately observe multiple people engaging on one specific nonverbal behaviour, like say arm positioning. but only when not in conversation and only when focussing directly on it. and this is pretty common with autistics because we have a diagnosed inability to interact nonverbally.

      i can see how this could be useful to people who are not autistic. who have very limited ways of interacting. however, it won`t be much use if you`re trying to teach people how to interact more compassionately with autistics. or teach autistics how to interact more effectively with anyone else.


  9. I remember saying, about past social skills training: “I did learn a lot about how to interact like a neurotypical person. I just wish they also taught me I didn’t have to.” This article reminds me of that, but also makes me realise the problems were likely deeper than that.

    Liked by 1 person

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