The two main concepts related to understanding Autism are Executive Function and Theory of Mind. This post will focus on Theory of Mind which is the ability to intuit the thoughts, feelings, and intentions of others. Social skills coaching leans heavily on this model of understanding Autism, and brings resources to bear on helping people to modify their behavior for situational appropriateness.
One of my favorite activities in social groups for getting kids thinking about theory of mind is called "mind reader". In this game kids sit across from each other and try to finish each other's sentences. Partners are encouraged to carefully watch each other's lips, expression, and listen to the context of the sentence to figure out the last word. Abracadabra mind reading!
Another, more involved activity for teaching theory of mind is drama therapy. The facilitator interviews each group member with several basic questions, what is your name, age, profession, and what do you do for fun? Kids can answer in any way other than giving their own information. The next step is to have them draw a mask and create a simple costume for their character in order to help them go further into the mind of their character. The last, and most important step is to group kids into small theater troops and help them to write several short plays based on scenarios that would be familiar to the children, but containing the reactions of their characters, not themselves.
For more on Theory of Mind, check out these resources below.