Let’s think about how many times a day (especially in pre-COVID times!) we need to interact with others when going about our daily lives. At the supermarket, on the bus, in the workplace, on the phone, the list goes on! Children’s lives are full of social interactions too, both familiar and new, including playing with other children, asking questions or requesting their needs with different adults, chatting to family on the phone or on Face-time. Sometimes children have difficulty using their language skills appropriately in social settings. Some difficulties you might see include:
Using their talking in a limited variety of ways – e.g. only asking questions, not saying hello or goodbye
Having trouble starting a conversation with a peer, or joining in play with others
Having trouble staying on topic when talking
Saying the wrong things or acting in an unusual way when talking with others
Laughing at inappropriate times, or not understanding humour
Having trouble forming or keeping friendships
Telling stories that don’t make sense, or are missing information
Just like other aspects of communication, including the sounds we use, and the sentences we form to share ideas, social skills can also be targeted with a speech pathologist.
There are many different approaches we can use to support children. You may have heard of ‘Social Stories’, which provide children with a framework or set of rules for certain social situations. Another tool in our kit at Active Speech Pathology is called video modelling. This is a therapy approach where we use video examples to teach target skills to children. The research base has found a positive impact when using both social stories and a video modelling approach. If your child is having difficulty with certain social skills, chat to your therapist about which approach might work best for them.
There are also things you can do at home in your everyday interactions. Here are some tips from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA):
Use everyday situations as practice opportunities: Give your child chances to practice good social communication during the day. For example, practice staying on topic by talking about the day at school. Have your child ask others in the family what they want to eat for dinner to practice asking questions. Let your child ask for what they need to finish an activity.
Teach how nonverbal cues are important to communication: For example, look at pictures of different faces, and talk about how the person might feel. Point out their facial features e.g. we have a frown and scrunched up face when we’re angry.
Talk about what it means when a person’s face doesn’t match what they say. This may happen when someone smiles as they say, “Get out!”
Role-play to practice conversations: Pretend to talk to different people in different situations. For example, have your child explain the rules of a game to different people. Show her how we need to speak differently to an adult than a child. Or, how we would talk to a family member compared to a stranger.
Having the opportunity to practice skills with other peers can be very valuable, and may help support transfer of skills from therapy to the real world.
At Active Speech Pathology, we are pleased to now offer Social Skill Groups. Your child can attend a small group program run by a speech pathologist and tailored to their individual needs. Phone or email us today to secure a place for your child!