Unlocking Social Skills and Executive Function: Bibliotherapy for Students with ASD

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often struggle with social skills and adapting to change. Bibliotherapy, using literature to address emotional and social needs, can be a valuable tool in supporting these students. By incorporating bibliotherapy into the classroom, educators can help students with autism develop social skills and strengthen their executive function.

Understanding Bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy involves using books and stories to explore and discuss social and emotional issues. For students with autism, this approach can provide a safe and structured way to learn about and practice social skills.

Benefits for Students with Autism

  1. Social Learning: Bibliotherapy provides a way for students to learn about social interactions and relationships through stories. By reading about characters with autism, students can see examples of social situations and learn how to navigate them.
  2. Building Empathy: Reading books that feature characters with autism can help neurotypical students develop empathy and understanding for their peers with autism.
  3. Improving Executive Function: Bibliotherapy can also help students with autism improve their executive function skills, such as planning, organizing, and regulating emotions. By reading stories about characters facing challenges similar to their own, students can learn strategies for managing their behavior and emotions.

Practical Strategies for Using Bibliotherapy

  1. Book Selection: Choose books with characters and themes that are relevant and relatable to students with autism. Look for books that address common challenges such as making friends, understanding emotions, and dealing with change.
  2. Discussion and Reflection: After reading a book, facilitate discussion about the characters and their experiences. Encourage students to reflect on how they can apply the lessons from the story to their own lives.
  3. Role-Playing and Activities: Use role-playing and other hands-on activities to help students practice the skills they have learned from the books. This can help reinforce the lessons and make them more tangible and applicable to real-life situations.

Bibliotherapy can be a powerful tool for educators working with students with autism. By using literature to teach social skills and improve executive function, educators can help students with autism develop the skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

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About the Author

Caitlin Vanderberg, Ed.M., is a SMARTS Associate and an Educational Specialist. She leads the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit and provides academic support to students with learning, attention, and executive function challenges. Before joining ResearchILD in 2020, Caitlin worked as an assistant elementary school teacher and with many arts education programs. Caitlin holds an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

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