4 Key Areas in Developing Effective Social Skills Programming

#4 Staff Competencies

The final key in developing effective social skills programming is that relevant staff, support personnel, and case consultants have the adequate training and competencies necessary to develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate programming. In the process of discussing and developing effective social skills programming for your child, you should know about the following:

Who should implement social skills programming with my child and what type of competencies, skills or qualification should a person possess who will be involved in teaching social skills to my child?

It is recommended that staff who provide social skills programming for students with developmental disabilities develop competencies in the use of applied behavior analytic procedures. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a highly individualized method of instruction based on scientific principles of learning theory. It is used to design student programs that are implemented systematically, evaluated empirically, and introduced within natural environments. This method has been validated by more than 25 years of research as the most effective way for individuals with and without disabilities to acquire skills, increase socially useful behaviors, and reduce problematic behaviors (Matson, 1990; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991). In short, staff competencies should include knowledge of:

What kind of training or support would benefit teaching staff and who should conduct the staff training?

Research in staff training has demonstrated that competency-based training is superior in effectiveness over just workshops and didactic instruction (Christian, 1987). Specifically, staff training should include both instruction and competency-based consultation to ensure that staff develop measurable competencies, rather than simply receiving hours of training (Jenson, Walker, Clark, & Kehle, 1991). Competency-based training means that the skills needed by staff to implement various components of programming or to generally enhance childrens social skills are task-analyzed into a checklist. This checklist would serve as a tool for the consultation provider to ensure that all necessary competencies are demonstrated. Staff performance should also be monitored regularly to ensure that competence is maintained (Reid & Green, 1990; McConnell & Hecht, 1991). 

Staff training should be conducted by qualified professionals in applied behavior analysis, such as behavioral consultants, with expertise in school consultation. In this way, the behavioral consultant can utilize all necessary consultation skills in producing the greatest likelihood of successful collaboration and outcomes for your child. (For more information, please refer to Identifying Qualified Professionals in Behavior Analysis and Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism edited by Maurice, Green, and Luce (1996) and Behavioral Consultants: Who are they and how do I find the right one? by Rotholz & Jacobson (2001). Also visit the Behavior Analyst Certification Board website at www.bacb.com).