We 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. A range of skills are involved, including:
- being able to listen and concentrate on what someone is saying during a conversation.
- : being able to understand the language used. This also involves inference (drawing conclusion about what something means from the context)
- Communicating without using words e.g. gestures, facial expressions, imitation, joint attention and eye-contact.
- awareness of the need to take turns during a conversation or interaction
If a child struggles with social skills they might 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).
Playing with your child helps to develop joint attention, turn-taking, shared interests, cooperation and appropriate play with toys:
- 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). Practise scenarios where the child does not know anybody. Model and create different things you can say: e.g. “Can I play too?” or “Can I have the red brick please?”
- , such as ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ to help teach a child about different emotions.
- Play games with the child. Playing games the child is interested in will help develop joint attention and turn taking. Try to make sure the child is not always the ‘winner’ so that they learn about ‘losing’ in a game. This will help them to be able to cope better when this happens with their peers.
- can support your child’s understanding and can also be used as a visual prompt to remind them what to do in conversations e.g. taking turns, using friendly greetings such as ‘hello’ etc.
If you are concerned about your child’s social skills, please get in touch for a no obligation telephone consultation 01670 719791 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.