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Social Skill Autopsy As parents, we know the pain we feel for our children when they do not have friends, are not invited to parties or play dates, and always seem to be on the outside looking in. Maybe we can help our children by performing an autopsy – a social skill autopsy.  Yep, you read that right.

The word “autopsy” refers to the dissection of a body after death to determine the cause or problem that contributed to the death.

Richard Lavoie, MA, MEd, a renowned lecturer and author, cleverly used this word and coined the term “Social Skill Autopsy.”  Lavoie shares with Special-Ism, thirty years of professional insight into the importance of addressing social skills.

Prevent Rejection – It’s Key

Lavoie offers critical insights on the importance of addressing social skills:

“It is crucial to remember that the average child spends 1,080 hours annually in the classroom. This represents only 3-4% of a child’s waking hours.

Over 97% of a child’s time is spent in SOCIAL settings such as the school bus, lunch room, neighborhood, in the community, at home with the family, etc.

The pervasive disabilities that our kids experience including but not limited to memory problems, perceptual difficulties, language challenges, etc., have a significant impact upon the child’s ability to function and succeed in social environs.

This becomes increasingly important as the child enters adolescence and the acceptance by peers becomes more and more important. The adolescent who is rejected by or isolated from peers runs a high risk of developing anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges.”

Social Competence = Future Success

A significant body of research indicates that social competence, not academic skills, will be the ultimate determining factor in the success and happiness when these kids become adults.

“A child is able to avoid his academic challenges by becoming involved in athletics, play activities or peer interactions but he CANNOT avoid his social skill deficits because ALL situations involving more than one person is – in effect – a social environment.”, stated Lavoie.

Discover Social Skill Autopsy

When my daughter was 9 years old, I was in the process of developing our own treatment path.  It was at this time that I came across Lavoie’s book titled, “It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success”.  This book resonated with me – it was logical and it rang true.  I began to utilize the tools within his book with much success – especially the Social Skill Autopsy.

What is a Social Skill Autopsy

  • a supportive, structured, constructive strategy to foster social competence
  • a problem-solving technique
  • an opportunity for the child to participate actively in the process
  • conducted by any significant adult in the child’s environment
  • conducted in a familiar, realistic, and natural setting
  • most effective when conducted immediately after the social error

5 Stages of a Social Skill Autopsy 


Ask your child to explain what happened.  You will want your child to tell you the whole story, starting from the beginning.


Ask your child to identify the mistake(s) that was made.  This is a difficult stage for many children with various isms. Your child may be unclear on what he actually did wrong.


Assist your child in determining the actual social error that was made.  At this stage, discuss with your child the actual social mistake and provide alternate responses.


Create a short social story that has the same basic moral or goal as your child’s social mistake.  Once you present the scenario, your child should provide a response to show that she has learned the skill.

Social Story Apps >>

Talking Train

Social Stories Creator


Provide social homework.  Your child should apply their newly learned skill in a real-life situation that he identifies. When he has done this, he should report back to you what has happened.

Why Social Skill Autopsy Works

Lavoie explains, “The Social Skill Autopsy is effective because it provides social skill instruction using REAL LIFE situations involving people and incidents that are familiar to the student.  This strategy provides the child with the immediate feedback, practice, positive reinforcement and instruction that kids with language problems require.”

It is challenging to work with a child on social skill development. Tasks and activities that seem natural and  simple to YOU can be difficult and complex for the child. During the learning process, the child’s behavior can be puzzling, confusing and frustrating.

Always remember: Kids need love MOST when they deserve it the LEAST!