Many children and teens with Autism and other social communication disabilities have social problems, such as difficulties making friends and having two-sided interactive conversations. The UC Davis MIND Institute’s Social Skills Program covers important practical issues involved in helping groups of children learn new skills and techniques for peer interaction. This comprehensive program has been helping children since 2001. The MIND Institute has published two research papers on intervention with children and adolescents, making our program one of the few that is based on empirical research. The Social Skills Program currently operates as a clinical service at the MIND Institute, and is offered on a fee-for-service basis.

What is the Social Skills Program?

The UC Davis MIND Institute has built our program on two components. The first component is the children's group. The children's group is organized by age and typically have an average of 8-15 children at a time. The group is led by a licensed psychologist and several adult co-leaders. The second component involves a mandatory parent group that meets at the same time as the children's group and is led by clinical psychologist. Our therapy groups are once a week for 10-12 weeks and are on either Tuesday or Thursday afternoons from 4 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Our curriculum focuses on personal growth and skill development. We provide substantial opportunity for conversational practice and identification of tools and techniques to help increase ability to engage in reciprocal social conversation. We cover topics like perspective taking, social circles, friendship, and making plans. Our curriculum is developmental in nature, with greater focus on independence and leadership skills for the teenage participants. Each session includes practice working and navigating peer relationships in large and small group, and team problem solving. 

The parent group reviews the day's curriculum as well as other topics such as diagnostic profiles, psychiatric comorbidities, treatment, and working with school districts. Guest speakers are invited to present on topics of interest including behaviorism, medication, transition planning and sexuality. Parents are also invited to offer support and information to one another. 

Does My Child Meet the Requirements?

  • Your child must be 8 and 17 years of age
  • Your child must not have had any recent (within the past year) aggressive outbursts in a group or classroom type environment. We know that some children may have outbursts at home, but want to ensure the safety of your child and all other participants within the group.
  • Your child must have average or above verbal abilities. This includes the ability to communicate in full sentences and have brief conversations with others. This is a verbally laden program.
  • Your child must have a diagnosis of Autism or clinically significant social communication difficulties. Some children and teens have not been formally assessed, or may only have an educational based classification. 

**Social Skills Program is not an appropriate therapy for children with only ADHD.

Social Skills Journal Articles

A Social Adjustment Enhancement Intervention for High Functioning Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS. 
Solomon M, Goodlin-Jones BL, Anders TF. 
J Autism Dev Disord. 2004 Dec;34(6):649-68.


This paper reports the findings of a 20-week social adjustment enhancement curriculum for boys aged 8-12. The curriculum was designed to address three areas hypothesized to be deficient in persons with HFA, AS, and PDD NOS: emotion recognition and understanding; theory of mind; and executive functions/real life type problem solving. Parents attended a semi-structured concurrent psychoeducational training meeting during children's sessions. Statistically significant improvements in facial expression recognition, and problem solving were reported for intervention group children compared to waiting list control group children. For the intervention group (the only group for whom data were available), older and less cognitively able boy's scores on a depression inventory decreased significantly more than younger children's. Mother's depression scores tended to decrease and there were significant reductions in child problem behaviors reported. Results are discussed in the context of individual differences in participant cognitive levels and profiles, symptom severity, and affect-related variables.


The Effectiveness of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Families of Children on the Autism Spectrum. 
Solomon M, Ono M, Timmer S, Goodlin-Jones B.
J Autism Dev Disord. 2008 Oct;38(9):1767-76. Epub 2008 Apr 10.


We report the results of a pilot trial of an evidence-based treatment-Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT; Eyberg et al. Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 31(1), 83-91, 1995) for boys aged 5-12 with high functioning autism spectrum disorders and clinically significant behavioral problems. The study also included an investigation of the role of shared positive affect during the course of therapy on child and parent outcomes. The intervention group showed reductions in parent perceptions of child problem behaviors and child atypicality, as well as an increase in child adaptability. Shared positive affect in parent child dyads and parent positive affect increased between the initial and final phases of the therapy. Parent positive affect after the first phase was related to perceptions of improvement in problem behaviors and adaptive functioning.