WHAT ARE SOCIAL SKILLS AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
Social skills are the skills we use to communicate and interact with others. They include both verbal communication with words and greetings, and non-verbal communication such as gestures, body language and eye gaze.
Social skills help us connect with others and build meaningful relationships. Many children may master the language basics of greetings, taking turns in conversations and responding appropriately, however they may still have difficulty making friends.
At Building Blocks OT we believe that it is the understanding of how our behaviour makes others feel that drives us to behave as expected in social situations. For example, an adult wouldn’t burp in front of others without saying, ‘Excuse me!’ or laughing, or offering some explanation due to the odd thoughts those around them would have if they said nothing. For a child, the expectation is that they must remain in the group, or communicate why they are leaving the play, if they want others to think of them positively.
We teach ‘expected’ behaviours to make others feel comfortable and have good thoughts about us. Unexpected behaviours make others feel uncomfortable and they may have strange thoughts about us. This in turn can affect our ability to develop friendships and other relationships, which can affect confidence and self-esteem, and lead to further unexpected behaviours.
So rather than Social Skills, we call it SOCIAL THINKING skills and follow the principles taught in the Social Thinking Curriculum.
For more information on the Social Thinking Curriculum, you can have a look here:
The great news is that there is a lot that can be done to improve your child’s social skills. Through overt teaching, and a coaching model of practice in real life social groups with age-matched peers, we achieve great results. Many children make real connections with peers for the first time, and successfully generalise these skills to the playground.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD NEEDS HELP?
- Can your child share without prompting, take turns peacefully, and make requests rather than demands during play?
- Do they always act bossy, have trouble really listening to others ideas in play or need to be in control of the play?
- Does your child seem to have difficulty knowing what’s expected, keeping their brain and body connected to the play, or following the rules of the game?
- Does your child withdraw from group play, preferring to play on their own?
- Does your child make common errors such as ‘blurting’, changing the topic, or not problem solving conflicts appropriately?
These are common difficulties we see and through task analysis and the medium of play we can help children identify and improve these skills.