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Running head: ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 1

Developing a Person-Centered Plan for Aspergers Syndrome

Kaitlyn Derrick

St. Bonaventure University


ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 2

Introduction

The general process for creating a person-centered plan takes time and dedication. It is

important for the person who is creating the plan to form a relationship with the individual. The

person creating the plan should have an idea of what is in the students best interest. The person

creating the plan should ask What does the student want for themselves? When thinking about

the assignment, I took my time to think about who would really benefit from having a plan set in

place. Therefore, I will be creating a person-centered plan for my cousin who has been diagnosed

with Aspergers Syndrome.

For this person-centered plan, I chose to work with a student who can be referred to as

Sully. Sully is a happy, smart, and caring boy who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 3rd

grade. Currently, Sully attends 6th grade in a general education classroom in a rural school

district. Rao, Beidel, and Murray (2008), states that attending a general education class, those

with Asperger Syndrome are more exposed to different social experiences. Sully demonstrates

good academic skills when proper resources are provided, such as visual aids and computer time.

According to Bullard (2004), when posting visual representations and schedules in the classroom

the children tend to transition easier, causing less behaviors to occur. Knowing the constant daily

classroom routine helps Sully stay focused throughout the school day. Sully is really good with

numbers and does very well in mathematics class. Personally, I have known Sully all his life (12

years), but recently I started to spend more time with Sully. Sully and I have worked on basic

social interaction skills. For example, we have worked on how to properly introduce yourself to

new people he has not met before (by attending summer rec).

Sully lives with his father, brother, step-mom, and step-brother. Sullys family is

involved in Sullys life and want to help Sully achieve his goals. Sully really enjoys making toy
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 3

model cars. Sully has shelves full of all different types of model cars that he has made. Sully can

tell you all about the different models and fun facts to go with each car. Sully recently started to

show an interest in swimming. In addition, like any teen boy, Sully really enjoys playing video

games, dinosaurs, and surfing the YouTube channel.

The overall goal of this person-centered plan is to help Sully work on increasing his

general social skills. In research done by Bock (2007), those who have been diagnosed with

Aspergers Syndrome tend to be incapable to engage in age-expected interactions and have

challenges with understanding the proper social skills that are related with social interactions.

Sully will work on his social skills to help him feel more confident and comfortable when

expressing and advocating for himself. Knowing and understanding the proper ways to

communicate with others may eliminate behaviors that could occur during school. When unsure

of something, Sully will work toward communicating and asking clarification questions. Sully

will work on his social skills to help him succeed in the future.

Literature Review

Engaging with individuals daily has a major impact on a persons life both inside and

outside the classroom. For upper elementary students, being able to effectively communicate

with both peers and teachers is important. In order to be successful in high grade levels and in

the future, students need to develop strong social skills. Expressed by Davis, Boon, Cihak, and

Fore (2010), the older children become, the social atmosphere tends to get more complicated for

individuals to comprehend themselves, others, and social surroundings also increase. For

students with Asperger Syndrome, this social interaction is known to be more difficult.

According to Davis et al. (2010), Asperger Syndrome can be describe as a higher function form

of autism where individuals tend to have trouble with achieving social success despite their
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 4

normal levels of language and academic intelligence. In order for students to achieve social

success, students with Asperger Syndrome need to increase their social skills. Rao et al. (2008)

defines social skills as precise behaviors that produce positive social success, which includes

verbal and non-verbal cues needed for proper communication. Some given examples are making

eye contact when communicating with others, provide proper responses to asked questions, and

expressing appropriate emotional feelings.

In the process of working with Sully, we discussed his weaknesses and goals for

achievement. Going forward I used the gathered information to research methods to help him

reach his goals. The majority of the research conducted was on ways to help teach Sully the

proper social skills to help improve the amount of social interaction he experiences. Much of the

research indicated that students with Asperger Syndrome benefit from learning about social

interactions through the use of multiple strategies. Since not every case of Asperger Syndrome is

the same, meeting the needs of each individual student is critical. Based on the research of Roa et

al. (2007) a training program needs to be made specifically to the student. Therefore, multiple

strategies will be more beneficial because not all strategies work for each individual student.

Getting involved in extracurricular activities is a great way to get to know more peers.

For individuals who have Aspergers making new friends can be more of a challenge. One

possible activity for helping students with Asperger Syndrome learn social skills is through the

use of LEGO therapy. As described by Owens, Granader, Humphrey, and Baron-Cohen (2008),

LEGO therapy uses an activity that interests the child to create a structured environment for the

student to practice their social skills. The student with Asperger Syndrome will work with a

group of few peers to complete a LEGO set under adult supervision/direction. Each member of

the group will be assigned a different job that is required to complete the set. This scenario
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 5

creates a need for communication and social interaction amongst the team to successfully

complete the LEGO set. Owens et al. (2008) showed that LEGO therapy was an effective

strategy for teaching children with Asperger Syndrome social and communication skills. This

type of strategy uses an object that the student with Asperger Syndrome seems to really enjoy to

keep their interest throughout the session. Davis et al. (2010) agrees that using an object of

interest can greatly increase the amount of focus and cooperation observed in the student with

Asperger Syndrome. Overall, the LEGO therapy strategy seems to be an effective and versatile

method for increasing social skills in children. I feel that this strategy would

Another possible method for teaching children social skills is by giving them examples of

how to act in different situations. Kagohara, Achmadi, Van der Meer, Lancioni, OReilly, Lang,

Marschik, Sutherland, Ramdoss, Green, and Sigafoos (2013) described how to use Social

StoriesTM to teach children the proper skills to successfully navigate themselves through a social

interaction. This method is used by creating and telling short stories about different people who

are in particular social situations. The story needs to be very detailed describing the social

behaviors and cues that were exhibited by the people in the story. This gives the student with

Asperger Syndrome an example of how to act in a social scenario. Both Kagohara et al. (2013)

and Owens et al. (2008) agree that Social StoriesTM can be an effective method for teaching

children with Asperger Syndrome social skills.

The Social StoriesTM method provides a verbal example for the students to follow while

learning social skills. Some students may learn and retain more social skills through the use of a

more visual method. Kagohara et al. (2013), also describes the use of video modeling to teach

the child of interest how to perform certain social cues or behaviors. These videos would model

how to perform social behaviors like facial expression, typical language used, engagement, and
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 6

how to express certain emotions. The videos could be repeated several times until the child

seems to be learning the desired action. The videos could be shown to the child using technology

such as computers and tablets. Kagohara et al. (2013) found that the video modeling lead to

increased complexity of the greetings exhibited by the children in the study. Social StoriesTM and

video modeling could be used in conjunction to help improve the social skills of children who

suffer from Asperger Syndrome.

It is important to have the skill of communication and social encounters. There are many

methods and techniques used in the past to teach social skills to children who are lacking in

social development. To limit behaviors that may occur a schedule routine with distinct steps

gives the student structure. For students with Asperger Syndrome visualizing instructions,

routines, and expectations help students understand what is expecting of them. According to

Bullard (2004), providing a visual representation of the daily schedule helps ease daily

transitions, limiting disruptive actions. If change is going to occur, it is crucial that students are

aware of the change to reduce the amount anxiety and stress that could lead to behaviors.

Once a routine is established, it is easier for students to focus on processing the

socialization that is going on in the environment around them. One strategy that helps students

with Asperger Syndrome process information at their own rate is SODA. Bock (2007), defines

Soda as: Stop-Observe-Deliberate-Act. This strategy provides students with rules for deciding

what social cues and skills are to be used for a specific social situation. This strategy helps

individuals stop and think about their actions and statements before they act upon them.

Sometimes students with Asperger Syndrome talk about anything that interests them whether the

time is appropriate or not. By using this technique, individuals use self-talk questions to help

guide their information development. Once the students have worked on answering the
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 7

questions, students then create a detailed list of what they would say and do with their peers in a

social setting.

According to Rao et al. (2007), individuals with Asperger Syndrome suffer from

difficulties in all aspects of development including: academic, social, emotionally, and can effect

relationships within the home. Parents and teachers need to have clear open communication

about the techniques that are being used inside and outside of the classroom. Research conducted

by Cappadocia and Weiss (2011) showed that children with Aspergers exhibit more social skills

when parents were properly informed with how to help their child with social skills. Parents

would attend training classes to provide the necessary information needed to help improve their

childs social skills. Justified in Bullard (2004), practicing social role-play at home with their

child could help increase the appropriate social behaviors. Simply by keeping track of their

childs interaction at home can help track progress to indicate whether a specific strategy works.

According to Cappadocia and Weiss (2011), it was beneficial for parents to keep weekly

behavior logs to help aid parent teacher discussions. This would help the teacher know if the plan

is working or if changes need to be made to help the student achieve their goals.

No matter what method is used or what goals are made, it is very important to make sure

that the child who is being worked with remains interested and motivated throughout the

intervention. One way to keep the child interested is through the use of some type of reward.

Owens et al. (2008) described a method that involved the children getting stickers for doing well

in the program. If the children earned enough stickers they could eventually get a sweet treat.

This gives the children a short term satisfaction and a long term goal/reward to work towards.

Davis et al. (2010) also found that using rewards and recognition improved the use and retention

of social skills. The children tend to take more interest in a task when there is some type of
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 8

reward involved. Cappadocia and Weiss (2011) compared using a more long term physical

reward (points towards a field trip) and a short term edible treat. It was found that both of the

methods seemed to be effective, but the long term field trip reward seemed to be a little more

effective. Rewards are not the only factor that plays a role in how well the child with Asperger

Syndrome learns social skills. It is very important for the child to feel like they are well

supported throughout the intervention. Pisula and Lukowska (2011) found that children with

Asperger Syndrome tend to receive less support from children their own age and more support

from adults involved in the intervention. Increasing support, and ensuring that the student is

supported throughout the whole process, will help ensure that the student has the best chance to

learn social skills.

PCP Meeting

The overall planning process for the PCP was fairly straightforward. Once I decided to

create a PCP plan for my cousin, the planning process fell right into place. The first step was to

talk with Sully to determine who he wanted to attend the meeting. This was important because

this meeting was all about Sully and his wants/needs. Sully stated that he would like to have his

immediate family: his father and his brother attend the meeting because they know him and his

disability the best. Sully also asked for his friend to attend the meeting for moral support. With

guidance, I asked Sully if it was okay to invite his teacher to attend the meeting. Sully stated that

it would be okay for his teacher to attend if the teacher was there to help him. Sully discussed

that he feels more comfortable only having people in his support system attend the meeting.

When setting up a time and place to hold the meeting, we first discussed everyones daily

schedule. Naturally, people have busy schedules and hosting meetings can become a difficult

task. The support circle agreed that the best time to host the meeting was in the evening time.
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 9

The meeting took place on November 10th at the local library. Next, an agenda was created to

help the meeting go smoothly. To help guide the creation of the agenda, I used the PCP map as a

reference. The support circle decided that an hour was a reasonable timeframe for Sullys

meeting. In this timeframe the support system, including Sully, held a discussion about Sully.

What does Sully like to do? What are his lifetime dreams, what are his fears? What type of

things does Sully strive in; what are his strengths and weaknesses? What are your personal goals

for school? Knowing this information will help everyone gain a better understanding for Sully

and how to help him be more successful throughout school.

It is important to start off this meeting with an open mind, remembering that this meeting

is Sullys way to have a voice. It is important to be cooperative and supportive of Sully and his

decisions and goals. To start off the meeting, I asked Sully if he understood why we were having

the meeting, or if he needed further clarification. I explained to Sully why we were having the

meeting. I explained that this meeting will help him come up with goals and even a plan he

wishes to follow in the future. Sully said he understood and we moved onto addressing the seven

steps from the PCP map.

Sully started off the meeting by explaining to his support group what he enjoys doing.

Sully likes to swim, play videos games with his brother, learning facts about dinosaurs, and math

class because he loves numbers and brain teasers, such as Sudokus. Leading off of this, I asked

What are Sullys strengths? Sully identified that his strengths are solving problems and

equations. Sully enjoys figuring out how to put together toy model cars because he needs to

figure out what pieces connect with each other. Also, Sully said that he has an interest in

dinosaurs. Sullys personal favorite dinosaur is an Ankylosaurs because of the powerful tail they

have. I took this time to ask his support group if they agreed or noticed any other areas of
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 10

strength. The teacher agreed that Sully enjoys anything mathematical and sometimes corrects

her. As for Sullys dad, he stated that Sully is always doing brain teasers and number problems.

Dad communicated that Sully can go through a Sudoku book a month, sometimes faster than

that.

Next, the group discussed what types of weaknesses and nightmares Sully has for the

future. Sully communicated that a weakness he may have is that he likes to talk a lot because he

finds everything so fascinating. The teacher agreed with Sully, she stated that she has to remind

Sully multiple times not to talk when she is talking. She also expressed that Sully likes to go off

topic and discuss something that interests him rather than talk about the topic being taught.

Sullys dad and friend also agreed with the weakness Sully identified for himself. Dad said that

at dinner time they enjoy talking about each others day. Often, Sully will start to talk about his

day and then go off topic on a new discovery he made that day. Dad stated that most of the time

he will have to tell Sully that other people need to have the opportunity to talk as well. Sully

expressed a major terror or nightmare that he has. Sully said that he has nightmares of

transitioning into middle and high school. Sully is afraid that the bullying and teasing will grow

as he gets older and he is afraid of having a bigger class size. Sullys friend agreed, he stated that

Sully has talked a lot about changing schools and how he is afraid of new students and

environment. In the end, Sully stated that all he wants to do is fit in like other kids his age.

Next, in my opinion, came the most important part of the meeting, the discussion of

Sullys lifetime dreams. Sully acknowledged that one of his lifelong dreams is to become a

mechanical engineer because he can help solve, build, and fix different pieces of equipment.

Sully said he would enjoy this profession because he likes working with his hands and learning

how things connect together to work as one. While discussing Sullys lifelong dreams, I
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branched off and asked him What are your short term dreams, or goals that will help him

accomplish his ultimate lifelong dream? Sully knows that he will have to go out of his comfort

zone and interact more with other people outside of his support group. Therefore, Sully

mentioned that he would like to get more involved in social groups inside and eventually outside

of school. Sullys support group agreed that Sully would benefit from having more peer

interactions and that this would be one of the major goals Sully should partake.

From the dreams that Sully identified, the discussion lead to Sullys personal goals for

both inside and outside of school. Sully would like to work on becoming more involved in

extracurricular activities to help him meet new people. Based on his interest, Sully stated that he

wanted to join the swim team. The teacher stepped in and asked Sully how he felt about

LEGOS? Sully stated that he enjoys making models cars, so he hasnt really done much with

LEGOs. The teacher explained to Sully what the LEGO team is and how it builds on team work.

Sully said that he would like more information, but it sounds like it would be of interest to him. I

stepped in and stated that I could help gather resources and information about the LEGO team. I

talked a little about the experience I witnessed while student teaching. I tried to get Sully excited

because I too believe that the LEGO team would be a great way for Sully to interact with other

children. Dad agreed with the teacher by expressing how he feels the LEGO team would be a

good fit for Sully. Dad continued to state that he has a fear that Sully doesnt know how to

properly communicate with others. Dad notices that when Sully does try to interact with others it

is all about him and his interests. Sully rudely interrupts others conversation to start talking about

things that he finds to be interesting. Dad feels that a goal Sully should work on is identifying the

proper communication skills when socially interacting with others. After discussion, Sully

agreed that maybe learning the right ways to approach individuals will help him achieve his goal
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 12

of becoming more socially involved in activities, such as becoming a part of the swimming and

the LEGO team.

Another one of Sullys goals is to reduce the amount of times he interrupts others. Sully

notices that others become frustrated with him when he talks for an excessive amount of time.

Sully says he is unaware of the situation and becomes angry when people walk away from him

before he is finished. Sullys friend stepped in by saying that he really enjoys Sullys company

and fun facts, but it would be nice to be able to talk a little more. Sullys teacher suggested that

she could give Sully different gestures to signal Sully when he has started to excessively talk and

go off topic. If Sully can go a whole day without needing gestures, Sully can be rewarded with a

small tangible prize (getting on the computer, etc.). Therefore, Sully would like to work on

proper social skills when communicating with peers.

Overall, I felt that the meeting went well and everyone stayed focused on Sully. At first,

the meeting started off slowly, but by rephrasing questions and giving examples, the support

circle started to interact more. All participants helped facilitate the meeting and assisted Sully

with creating personal goals that will help Sully work on his social skills. By collaboratively

working together, Sullys teacher and father were able to use both Sullys strengths and interests

to come up with a way Sully could work on his social skills. If I could have changed anything, I

would have asked more questions toward the support circle. At times I felt that it got quiet, so I

moved on to the next topic on the agenda. Instead, I should have asked more guiding questions to

get more details and opinions from more members of the support circle. I feel that the dad and

teacher voiced their opinions, but I was really hoping to hear more from Sullys friend. This

would have allowed me to see how someone Sullys age viewed someone who has Asperger
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 13

Syndrome. Thus, working closely together had a positive effect on the creation on Sullys goals

to increase his social skills.

Plan

It is important that Sullys support circle helps Sully work on his goals so that he could

succeed in the future. At the meeting my contact information was given out to Sullys support

circle. I wanted to keep an open communication with both Sullys family and teacher in case

they needed additional support. As specified above, the theme to Sullys goals are centered

around learning social skills. Sullys goals are to work on properly communicating with others

and to become more involved in extracurricular activities to help him meet new people. These

goals are short-term goals that lead into long-term goals that can be practiced throughout Sullys

lifetime. These goals are attainable and achievable and could, if correctly worked on, be fulfilled

promptly. For now, Sully would like to focus on communicating when given permission. Sully

tends to interrupt instructional time to tell others facts about topics that interest him. To help

Sully become more aware of when he tends to overstep the teacher or other classmates, a plan

was put in place. When Sully starts to excessively talk to others, Sullys teacher will provide

Sully with different gestures to help cue Sully to stop talking. If Sully can go a whole day

without needing gestures, Sully can be rewarded with a small tangible prize (getting on the

computer, etc.). Eventually, the goal is to have Sully recognize when he starts to talk without

having to be given cues at all.

In addition to learning how to properly communicate with others, another goal of Sullys

is to become more involved in extracurricular activities to help him meet new people. During the

meeting, Sully expressed he wishes to become part of the swim team. Knowing Sullys interests

and strengths, Sullys teacher mentioned joining the LEGO team. Sullys dad stated that he felt
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 14

that Sully would benefit and enjoy the LEGO team because he enjoys building toy model cars.

To help Sully work on this goal a plan of getting more information was put in place. The first

step was getting more information to Sully that explained what the LEGO team was. After the

meeting took place, the teacher was to get information from the LEGO coach and give it to

Sully. From there, Sully and his dad were to review the information and discuss the benefits of

joining the LEGO team. After reading about the information, the teacher will go to talk to the

LEGO coach and see if Sully could come and watch the team during a team LEGO practice.

Allowing Sully to observe and visualize what the LEGO team does during practice will give

Sully a better sense for what the team does and how they work as a team. Finally, Sully would

collaboratively work with his team mates to complete the required tasks. Sully will have a

reminder chart with him that informs him of the proper steps on ways to communicate with

others. As stated above, Owens et al. (2008) showed that the LEGO therapy was an effective

strategy for teaching children with Asperger Syndrome proper social and communication skills

they need in order to interact with others. Personally, I feel that this extracurricular activity will

help Sully strengthen his social skills when interacting with new individuals.

Conclusion

Overall, the plan that was put in place is to help Sully work on his social skills when

interacting with others, especially new individuals. Pisula and Lukowska (2011) found that social

relationships are increasingly important as children move through higher grades in the school

system. Failure to make social connections may lead to loneliness and decreased overall well-

being. This means that the plan put in place for Sully will help him make more social

connections as he gets older. This plan will help conquer Sully's fear of transitioning into middle

and high school. The problem that occurred was frequent interruptions during class time to talk
ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 15

about topics that interest Sully. With Asperger Syndrome, individuals tend to focus on one topic

and research facts on that topic. Sully would excessively talk to other individuals and not read

the frustrated expressions. I feel like this happened because Sully may lose interest in a topic that

is being taught. Also, this could happen if Sully has something on his mind about a certain topic

and cant get it off his mind until he talks about the topic multiple times. Sully worried that when

entering middle school more students would bully him for being different. Therefore, Sully,

with the help of his support group, created goals that would help increase Sullys proper social

behaviors. Sullys goals are to become a mechanical engineer, properly communicating with

others, and to become more involved in extracurricular activities to help him meet new people.

These goals are attainable and possible and with the right support, Sully can achieve his goals.

So far, the plan seems to be effective because Sully is in the process of joining the LEGO team.

Sully watched a few practices and decided that the LEGO team is a great fit for him. At this

point in the plan everything seems to be going as plan. Sully will continue to work towards

joining the LEGO team and becoming a team player, along with reducing the amount of talking

that takes place during instructional time.

Appendices

Agenda:

1. Introductions (Silly Ice Breaker): This helps introduce everyone in case everyone doesnt

know each other.

2. Establish norms: This gets everyone on the same page and help them focus only on what

is best for Sully.


ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 16

3. Ask Sully how school is going and what he is learning in school: This allows Sully to see

that I am interested in his life and what is going on in school. This opens up for a good

discussion.

4. Ask Sully what he likes to do, his dreams, fears, strengths, weaknesses, personal goals.

5. Ask the support circle to add in any thoughts they have about Sullys dreams, strengths,

and weaknesses.

6. Work with Sully to develop a plan that will help Sully achieve his goals.

7. Finish the meeting by giving out my contact information and informing everyone that

they can contact me at any minute if they need help.

Plan:

The plan that was created was to help Sully achieve his short term goals so that one day he

can become a mechanical engineer. Sullys short term goals are to work on properly

communicating with others. Therefore, Sully and his teacher will work closely together to

recognize when Sully starts to excessively talk or go off topic. Sullys teacher will provide visual

cues to Sully to help reduce the amount of talking that happens doing class. In addition, Sully

wants to become more involved in extracurricular activities to help him meet new people. To

obtain this goal, the teacher is going to get information about the LEGO team to Sully. The

teacher is going to talk to the coach to see if Sully could come and watch the team during a team

LEGO practice. From there Sully needs to further pursue the paperwork and any other additional

requirements in order to become a new member of the LEGO team.


ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 17

References:

Bock, M. A. (2007). A Social--Behavioral Learning Strategy Intervention for a Child with

Asperger Syndrome. Remedial & Special Education, 28(5), 258-265.

Bullard, H. R. (2004). Ensure the Successful Inclusion of a Child with Asperger Syndrome in the

General Education Classroom. Intervention in School & Clinic, 39(3), 176-180.

Cappadocia, M. C., & Weiss, J. A. (2011). Review of Social Skills Training Groups for Youth

with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism. Research in Autism Spectrum

Disorders, 5(1), 70-78.

Davis, K. M., Boon, R. T., Cihak, D. F., & Fore III, C. (2010). Power Cards to Improve

Conversational Skills in Adolescent with Asperger Syndrome. Focus On Autism & Other

Developmental Disabilities, 25(1), 12-22.

Kagohara, D., Achmadi, D., Meer, L., Lancioni, G., O'Reilly, M., Lang, R., & ... Sigafoos, J.

(2013). Teaching Two Students with Asperger Syndrome to Greet Adults Using Social

Stories and Video Modeling. Journal of Developmental & Physical Disabilities, 25(2),

241-251.

Owens, G., Granader, Y., Humphrey, A., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2008). LEGO Therapy and the

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ASPERGERS: DEVELOPING THE PROPER SOCIAL SKILLS 18

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