Setting the Stage for Success: Effective Strategies to Improve and Promote Social Skills for Individuals with Fragile X Syndrome

By Jayne Dixon-Weber

Barbara Haas-Givler, from the Geisinger Fragile X clinic in Pennsylvania, gave a talk at the 18th NFXF International Fragile X Conference about strategies to promote and support social skills in individuals with FXS. Understanding the behavioral challenges in FXS is essential to promoting successful positive social skill development. She provided resources and strategies for implementing social skills support in the classroom, home, and community. Continue after the video for my top 10 takeaways from this important webinar.

Related Materials: Presentation Slides

Presenter: Barbara Haas Givler
Moderator: Jayne Dixon-Weber
Runtime: 1:08:29

Jayne’s Top 10 Takeaways:

  1. Start teaching social skills early and know that the skills change as the individual ages.
  2. Addressing behaviors is part of social skills development. If there is a challenging behavior, you want to replace the challenging behavior by teaching appropriate behavior.
  3. School is all social — all day long. I think that is why our children need breaks during the day.
  4. There are numerous aspects to developing social skills — from communication to turn-taking, to not always winning. Characteristics that can be challenging include a short attention span, understanding the game, and even the often-present anxiety.
  5. Allowing the opportunity to watch others interact or play a game is a very important tool in teaching our children. Remember they will mimic both the good and the bad.
  6. Direct instruction is often needed. For example, bathroom talk is not appropriate in social situations.
  7. Teach appropriate ways to say hi to people — high fives, knuckles, and “wat up”? You may have to teach who is appropriate to hug and when and where that is okay.
  8. If you use social stories, keep them positive.
  9. Role play or rehearse before an event that may be challenging — for example, accepting birthday presents (that they might not like), or going to a birthday party and watching someone else get presents.
  10. Volunteering is a good way to be social; it often works well when you pair your children with younger children or older people.

There are many aspects to teaching our children social skills and it can be challenging but I hope you find that you can have a lot of fun with it. Watching our children grow and develop their skills is a learning experience for both of you. Remember that your child is watching and listening to you, so be aware of your interactions with others.

Just as important, just like you need downtime after social events, your child probably does too!

Jayne Dixon Weber, director of community services, NFXF

Jayne Dixon Weber
Jayne served as the NFXF director of community education (and other positions over the years) from 2007 to 2023. She has two adult children, a son with Fragile X syndrome and a daughter. Jayne is the author of Transitioning ‘Special’ Children into Elementary School, co-author of Fragile X Fred, and editor of Children with Fragile X Syndrome: A Parents’ Guide. Jayne likes to read, enjoys photography, and goes for a walk every day.

Barbara Haas-Givler

Barbara Haas-Givler, MEd, BCBA
Director, Education and Behavioral Outreach, Geisinger Fragile X Clinic

Barbara Haas-Givler is a board-certified behavior analyst in Lewisburg, PA. Ms. Haas-Givler has extensive experience in special education, serving in many different capacities over the course of her career, including classroom teacher, administrator, educational consultant, behavior analyst, and research associate for clinical pharmaceutical trials.

Ms. Haas-Givler has been a long-time member of the Fragile X community. Her dedication to providing families living with Fragile X strategies for success has made a huge impact over the years. She is also a member of the NFXF Clinical Trials Committee.