Social skills is the term that refers to a child’s ability to interact with other people. Many different skills fall under the umbrella of social skills, including understanding social rules, using correct body language, using appropriate language, and using empathy to understand the world from someone else’s point of view.
Imagine these situations:
- You invited your friend over for dinner. Your child sees your friend reach for some cookies and says, “Better not take those, or you’ll get even bigger.” You can’t believe your child could be so rude.
- You talk with a neighbor about his new car. He has trouble staying on topic and starts talking about his favorite TV show. He doesn’t look at you when you talk and doesn’t laugh at your jokes. He keeps talking, even when you look at your watch and say, “Wow. It’s getting late.” You finally leave, thinking about how hard it is to talk with him.
Both your child and your neighbor speak well. What they may have trouble with is social communication, also called pragmatics. These are the rules that we follow when we talk such as when and how you should talk to people and how to effectively use facial expressions or gestures to share our feelings. Knowing and using these rules is vital to becoming a successful communicator.
If a child has difficulties with social communication (pragmatics) they may:
- Have difficulty remaining on topic in conversation.
- Not try to gain the attention of adults because they do not know how to or does so inappropriately.
- Tend to stand too close to the speaker and is unaware of personal space.
- Tell stories in a disorganized way.
- Have difficulty looking at the speaker or may look too intensely at the speaker.
- Dominate conversations and does not listen.
- Does not ask for clarification when they haven’t understood.
- Be unable to interpret the tone of voice in others (e.g. does not recognize an angry versus a happy voice).
- Use language in a limited way (e.g. only gives directions or makes statements but doesn’t greet or ask questions).
- Have difficulty understanding another person’s point of view.
* It is not unusual for children to have pragmatic or social communication difficulties in a few situations. However, if they occur often or seem inappropriate for their age there may be reason for concern.
Children with a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD, including Asperger’s Syndrome) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified) have difficulties with social communication (pragmatic skills).
How can Specialized Therapy Services Help?
Speech intervention can help your child:
- Learn how to engage appropriately with others during play, conversation and in interactions.
- Maintain friendships with peers.
- Learn how to respond appropriately during interactions with familiar and unfamiliar individuals
- Develop an understanding and awareness about social norms and to master specific social skills (e.g. taking turns in a conversation, using appropriate eye contact, verbal reasoning, reading body language and understanding figurative language).
*Individual and group therapy sessions available*