The Penn Social Skills Seminar is a 10-week program for young adults offered by the Social Learning Disorders Program in the Penn Psychiatry Department. Led by a clinical psychologist, the program emphasizes nonverbal communication and practical skills for social interaction. In addition to a set curriculum, the seminar pairs students with a social ‘coach’ to practice new behaviors and receive practical feedback from a peer.

How did you originally get started doing Social Coaching?

Dave Kahn: rising 5th year

Several of my colleagues at the Center for Autism Research had served as social coaches in the program, and it seemed like a great complement to my graduate work. Ideally, my research (which focuses on visual perception and autism spectrum disorders) will be beneficial to individuals with ASD – but as with any research, any benefits are rarely immediate. Coaching seemed like a positive use of my extra time, with appreciably direct benefits to others.

What’s the most interesting, exciting, or unexpected thing that has come out of/happened to you while doing Social Coaching?
One of the seminar’s events is a party, to which the coaches bring along some friends, giving the students a chance to practice what they have learned with people they haven’t met before. I invited a handful of friends from NGG, hoping one or two could make it, and nearly everyone I had invited was excited to attend. I think a few of them would even make better social coaches than I do.

What do you hope to do with Social Coaching in the future?
For the moment, I’m staying involved and getting ready for the fall semester’s seminar. In the longer term, I hope the experience of coaching will help me stay mindful of the practical needs of individuals with ASD and other social learning deficits.

For more information on the Penn Social Skills Seminar, visit:

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