November 14, 2013
Author Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson notes that socially challenged teens and young adults, such as those with autism, do not possess the coping skills to make and keep friends. As a result, they are often subjected to bullying. Dr. Laugeson is the director of the PEERS Clinic and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
Her new book, “The Science of Making Friends,” is based on research done in the UCLA Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) Clinic, which is the only evidence-based social skills intervention available for teens and young adults with autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression and other social impairments. The book is accompanied by a DVD and a mobile application called FriendMaker is also available.
The book, DVD, and ap are focused on providing real time advice and video demonstrations of appropriate behavior for individuals when they faces in a challenging social situation. Dr. Lauson notes that the book is designed for he socially challenged; however, it could also apply to any teen or young adult being bullied or attempting to fit in with his or her peers.
Dr. Laugeson explains, “Kids with special needs are already at a disadvantage. They have trouble reading social cues and interpreting the thoughts and feelings of others. Because of this, they are more likely to be teased and bullied, and they don’t always know how to respond appropriately.
Kids with autism in particular often exhibit odd behavior, which sets them up to be teased and bullied. They also tend to be isolated and alone, making them even easier targets.”
The book contains a step-by-step guide to help parents, educators, and others to provide social coaching. It includes solid rules and specific steps of social etiquette that can expand social opportunities, improve conversational skills, recognize strategies for handling peer rejection, as well as develop and enhance friendships. Lessons are presented via teaching narratives, followed by the basic rules and steps of social behavior.
In addition to the narrative sections that are designed for the parents, the book contains shorter, kid-friendly chapter summaries for teens and young adults that outline the rules and social steps they should abide by; these are followed by chapter exercises and homework. Dr. Laugeson stress that completing these exercises is critical because these are skills that must be practiced.
The DVD companion provides a video demonstrations of the book’s lessons using role playing. The mobile app, which can be downloaded to an iPhones or iPad, provides an overview of the rules and steps with embedded video demonstrations. Thus, the app can be used on the spot during a social situation.
Dr. Laugeson notes, “We know we can help the kids that go through the PEERS program, but this book was written for families that can’t access PEERS. Parents are with their kids the majority of the time and are in a unique position to be social coaches for their children. Parents give advice constantly, but it’s not always the best advice. With this book, they’re not just teaching what they think their children should do, but what we know actually works through research.”
Parents might advise their children to walk away, ignore their tormentor, or tell an adult. However, Dr. Laugeson notes that those behaviors can make them appear weak and an easier target. She notes that when an individual is teased, research has shown that when teased, it is more effective to respond with a comeback that shows what the bully said did not bother or embarrass them.
Dr. Laugeson explains, “Many people think of social skills as an art, skills that you are born with, that come hardwired. We think of social skills as a science, and we call this book, ‘The Science of Making Friends’ because we believe social skills are something you can study and something you can teach.”
“The Science of Making Friends” is published by Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint, and is available on Amazon. The mobile app, FriendMaker, is available through iTunes.