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Tuesday 21 Nov 2017

Expanding Social Opportunities for Individuals with Autism

kids see saw

Article by Stephanie Ekis, MS, CCC-SLP

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I am always looking for tools that will help me increase social interaction for children and adults who have difficulty communicating with the world around them. The process should always start by taking a look at the current communication partners and opportunities to which the individual currently has access. Communication partners would include familiar people such as caregivers, educators, job coaches, therapists, etc. Communication partners can also include unfamiliar people such as a bank teller, waitress at a restaurant or mailman.

Dr. Sarah Blackstone and Dr. Mary Hunt Berg have created a program called Social Networks: A Communication Inventory for Individuals with Complex Communication Needs and their Communication Partners. This program allows you to identify the things that affect communication success and guide you to strategies to encourage more communication opportunities over time. This information can be used to set realistic social goals for the future. This process attempts to identify:

  • Important communication partners
  • Places or situations where communication partners are lacking
  • Support team members who could benefit from communication partner training
  • Appropriate communication modes (e.g., facial expressions, signs, speech, AAC device, etc.) for each situation and for each communication partner

The Circles of Communication Partners are broken down into 5 groups:

Circle 1: Life-long communication partners

Circle 2: Close friends and relatives

Circle 3: Acquaintances

Circle 4: Paid workers

Circle 5: Unfamiliar partners

You may find that your child has a lot of people in circles 1 and 4. If this is the case, then the goal should be to establish communication partners in the other circles.


To learn more about Social Networks, visit

Frequently asked questions:

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