A social skill is any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others and
social skills therapy for children help them acquire social skills they do not have or improve
their existing social skills.
Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning these skills is called socialization,
when a child has social skill difficulties, they might also have difficulties with:
Behaviour: The childs actions, usually about their environment (e.g., a child may engage in a behaviour, such as refusing to go to social events including birthday parties or engage in inappropriate behaviours, such as tugging on a peers hair or yelling at someone to get their attention).
Sensory processing: The child may have trouble attending or focusing and have difficulty interpreting the information they receive from the environment.
Completing academic work (e.g., the child may misinterpret verbal or written instructions for tasks and struggle with imaginative writing).
Receptive (understanding) language: Comprehension of language.
Expressive (using) language: The use of language through speech, sign or alternative forms of communication to communicate wants, needs, thoughts, and ideas.
Articulation: Clarity of speech sounds and spoken language.
Fluency: The smoothness or flow with which sounds, syllables, words, and phrases are produced when talking.
Voice: The sound that we hear when someone talks which are unique to each person.
Self-regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change ones emotion, behaviour, attention, and activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable manner.
Executive functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.
What can be done to improve social skills?
Play with your child to help develop joint attention, turn-taking, shared interests, cooperation and appropriate play with toys.
Emotions: Help the child to understand and display their own emotions and to recognize these emotions in other people.
Empathy: Help the child to understand and recognize how other people are feeling in particular situations.
Social stories: These are stories which are used to teach children specific social skills that they may find difficult to understand or are confusing. The goal of the story is to increase the childs understanding by describing in detail a specific situation and suggesting an appropriate social response.
Social skill groups: These are groups run with the express purpose of mastering social interaction with others.
What activities can help improve social skills?
Visuals: Make up a poster of rules to remember when starting a conversation (e.g., using a friendly voice, making eye contact, using appropriate greetings, such as hello).
Role play: Practise playground/party scenarios where the child does not know anybody. Model and create a list of different things you can say:
To join others who are playing (e.g., Can I play too?).
To introduce yourself (e.g., Hi my name is .).
To politely negotiate with peers (e.g., I dont want that one. Can I have the blue car please?).
Sing songs, such as If youre happy and you know it to help teach a child about different emotions.
Masks: Make masks together to help improve eye contact.
Turn taking: Play turn taking games (e.g., board games) to encourage a child to say whose turn it is in the game (e.g., My turn, Your turn).
Games: Play board games with the child. Make sure the child is not always the winner so that they learn about losing in a game and can cope better when this happens with their peers.
Bean bag conversation: Throw a bean bag around a circle, and each child takes a turn to contribute to the conversation. Think of different ways to contribute to the conversation (e.g., ask a question, comment on what has been said, add something related to the topic).
Watch and comment: Role play different situations and comment about appropriate and inappropriate attempts of communication (e.g., standing too close or too far from another person, not using appropriate eye contact, interrupting a conversation).