Social skills are what help people to interact with others in a positive manner. This includes the ability to make friends, maintain friendships, playing with others, turn taking during games, and the more simple interactions such as speaking to a cashier in a store or asking someone for directions. With social skills we are able to make requests and make our needs known. Social skills are so important for special needs children. For those who are verbal and able to learn social skills can be taught. The concept that being personable or friendly is a trait that one is born with is untrue. Just as adults can improve their speaking skills or build their confidence, children and younf adults can improve their social skills and confidence.
Some things that kiddos can work on include:
- Personal space (learning how close to stand when speaking with others. Using an arms length is a great way to measure.)
- Volume, kids can be screamers or mumblers, but we can teach them to use to right volume to speak and be heard.
- Turn taking, when engaging others in a conversation or whole playing a game, kids need to learn to take turns talking and listening. Waiting is such an important and undertaught skill!
- Common phrases, kids on the autism spectrum can be taught common phrases to use in certain situations. Scripting is really a natural tool of language development where children repeat things they have heard elsewhere. This is be functional if utilized in a proper manner. For example: “help please”, “my turn” etc.
- Social stories for difficult events such as haircutting. A social story is a simple story where kids learn what to anticipate in a tough situation, for example “the barber will buzz his electric razor it is LOUD but, it doesn’t hurt. Adam loves his haircut, he looks so handsome!”
- How to be polite, we can teach kids the social nuances by providing them situations to practice. Teach them to greet others.
- I almost forgot, get the kids off the electronics! They only encourage isolation further. The less screen time the better.
Social groups can be interest based such as a model airplane building or model train group. Or, it can be activity based, a sports group or a art group. We can also create a buddy system and there are some awesome non profits who team up kids with neurotypical peers at fun places like kids muesuems and parks.
Parents of nerotypical kids, your kids can learn a lot from special needs kids! Please teach your kids how to interact with kids that are different with kindness and patience. Don’t teach them to avoid, but to include!
If you need help in this regard please reach out to me and comment below!