Developing social skills with adults

Ms Enaksha Garde1, Ms Emily Churchill1

1Enaksha Garde Speech Pathology, Heidelb, Australia

Social skills programs offer one way for people to improve their skills and independence over time. There is evidence to suggest that when delivered effectively they can assist people to increase community and workplace participation, enhance social relationships, and support positive mental health. There is a need for programs targeting people with intellectual disability and/or Autism to pursue their social goals and aspirations that can be delivered in the NDIS operating environment and for which there is evidence.

Nine people with an intellectual disability participated in a 13 week pilot social skill program in which social skills (e.g., personal distance, listening positions, interrupting, asking questions, commenting) were taught explicitly. The program was delivered by a speech pathologist, in partnership with a day service, an objective being to upskill direct support staff to deliver the program in future. Families were supported to promote translation of skills to the person’s natural environments. Outcomes were measured using surveys and a clinical tool.

Surveys completed by families and staff indicate a positive impact of the pilot program in all areas surveyed, as well as positive change between pre- and post-administration of the Pragmatic Protocol. Practitioner reflections reveal enablers and barriers to the successful delivery of the pilot program.

The initial evidence highlights that the pilot program can assist people develop skills for achieving social goals and aspirations. It provides insights into working alongside a person’s formal and natural supports to build capacity, delivering group interventions under NDIS, and building simple but effective program evaluation into everyday practice.


Emily Churchill is a speech pathologist who has been working in disability for the past two years. She is a strident advocate for empowering individuals to communicate and develop social networks, promoting the rights of people with disabilities, increasing their quality of life and supporting the process to achieve their individual aspirations.

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