Social skills are a common concern for parents. Often children come home from school complaining of being left out of playground games or rarely receive an invitation to a play-date or birthday party. Social skills are an important part of developing friendships. Social skill difficulties can be a common symptom of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with many children displaying poor or under-developed social-emotional skills. At YLO Psychology Clinic we often receive referrals for children both with and without a diagnosis of ASD to assist with increasing social skills.
What are social skills?
Social skills are specific behaviours such as smiling, making eye contact, asking and responding to questions and giving and acknowledging compliments during a social exchange. These behaviours result in positive social interactions that are linked to positive developmental outcomes including the ability to make and maintain appropriate peer relationships and peer acceptance.
Indicators my child may be experiencing social difficulties can include:
- Little use of eye contact,
- Uninterested in social interactions,
- Difficulties initiating social interactions,
- Difficulties interpreting verbal and non-verbal social cues
- Difficulty making or maintaining friendships
- Involved in bullying incidents
- Inappropriate emotional response,
- Lack of empathy towards others
Intervention for Social Skill Development
Intervention for social skill development may vary as to whether a child has a co-morbid developmental diagnosis such as ASD. However, social skills training is seen as a multi-faceted intervention with children, families and schools often involved in supporting a child to learn and practice their new-found social skills. Intervention from a psychologist in this area may include:
- Play Skills: for example, taking turns in a game or sharing a toy
- Conversation Skills: for example, choosing what to talk about or what body language to use
- Emotional Skills: for example, managing emotions and understanding how others feel
- Problem-Solving Skills: for example, dealing with conflict or making decisions in a social situation.
- Social Stories: can be used to explain social norms and rules
- Role-Playing: provide feedback to a child practicing conversation or play-based skills