Social skills have become an essential tool for success in both personal and professional relationships. However, for some individuals, mastering these skills can be a challenging task. This is where behavior skills training (BST) comes into play – a powerful technique that combines behavioral principles with effective teaching strategies to help individuals develop and enhance their social abilities. It is evidence based and used in ABA to teach new skills. Often used for students with lower support needs, but also used in staff and parent training. We know it works, and it is simple to implement. It’s a win-win all around!
How to implement behavior skills training
Discuss- Explain the skill you will be teaching them. I find it helpful to also discuss WHY this skill is important to know and master. You might also want to give them a guide to what exactly you want them to do (such as a task analysis) so they have the steps to refer to.
Model- Show them exactly what it will look like. Most of us are visual learners and benefit from seeing the skill performed.
Rehearsal- Give your students ample opportunities to practice. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in trainings where a presenter discusses and models a skill. I feels so confidently just observing the skill that I feel like I could do it in my sleep, only to find myself tripping up once we get to the rehearsal part. This part is super important, because different things might pop in your head when you are rehearsing and the best time for somebody to ask questions and troubleshoot is when the instructor is right there. Also, you want students to be doing these skills to fluency
Feedback- Make sure you tell your students what they did great and what they need to change. Make sure feedback is immediate and you are correcting errors as you see them happening, rather than waiting until the end of rehearsal. You want to be giving ample praise so that they stay motivated and they know exactly what they can keep doing the same. When giving constructive feedback, make sure you are describing the desired behavior. Constructive feedback should tell the receiver what they need to be doing differently and why it needs to be done that way.
Skills you can teaching using behavior skills training
- Introducing yourself
- Starting a conversation
- Advocating for yourself/assertiveness
- Non-verbal communication
- Conflict resolution
- Asking open-ended questions
- Perspective taking
I love using this method because, although it is evidence-based and rooted in ABA, it honestly just sounds like good teaching. Do you think you’ll use this method to teach social skills?
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