Supporting children's Social Communication
We all use social skills every day to interact and communicate with others. They include verbal and non-verbal communication, such as speech, gesture, facial expression and body language. Social skills are important in enabling us to have positive interactions with others. These skills are also vital in making and sustaining friendships. We learn social skills throughout our childhood, though some children find it more difficult to learn the rules of social skills than others.
We work with a range of children presenting with difficulties with their social communication.
A range of skills are involved:
- Attention and concentration: being able to listen and concentrate on what someone is saying during a conversation.
- Understanding language: being able to understand the language used. This also involves inference (drawing conclusion about what something means from the context)
- Using language: using appropriate language for the situation – this also includes being aware of the listener and giving them enough information to understand what you are telling them.
- Non-verbal Language: Communicating without using words e.g. gestures, facial expressions, imitation, joint attention and eye-contact.
- Turn taking: awareness of the need to take turns during a conversation or interaction
Difficulties with Social Skills
A child may have difficulties with:
- Eye contact e.g. does not consistently use eye contact or stares at you fixedly.
- Taking turns when talking to their communication partner.
- Using appropriate body language (e.g. stands too close/far to another person).
- Conversations: e.g. Maintaining a topic of conversation, starting and ending conversations appropriately, giving irrelevant information and repeating comments
- Understanding jokes and language, such as sarcasm, idioms and non-literal information (e.g. ‘It’s raining cats and dogs!’).
- Interpreting what you say – e.g. they may interpret in a very literal way (e.g. when you say “Can you put your shoes on?” the child says “yes” without moving to actually put on their shoes).
- The speed, stress, rhythm, intonation, pitch and/or tone of voice.
- Understanding different tones of voice or reading facial cues.
- Asking for clarification if they are confused or if the situation is unclear to them.
When a child struggles with social skills, they might also have difficulties with a range of other skills including behaviour, understanding and using language, verbal reasoning and completing school work (e.g. they may misinterpret what they are required to do).