Thursday, May 16, 2019

20+ Effective Strategies for How to Teach Social Skills

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Tips and resources to helps autism families navigate the holiday season

Strategies and tips for how to teach social skills to kids at home or at school.

While I would argue that the most important skills to teach your children would be emotional self-regulation skills, it's certainly no secret that it's important to be teaching social skills to our kids as well.

But how do you teach social skills to the kids who particularly struggle to understand social rules?

How do you support them in their social skills development?

And what can you do to help teach these skills at home?

Well, there are lots of different things you can do to help teach your child social skills, which I can sum up nicely as: explain, be patient, practice, model, prompt, and praise. But, if you're like me, you crave more practical suggestions and ideas to try. So below you'll find these 6 broad tips broken down into 20+ strategies for teaching social skills to kids.

How to teach social skills to students with autism

One Thing to Remember When Teaching Social Skills to Autistic & Hyperlexic Children

When it comes to teaching social skills, remember that it should be individualized to the person.

What and how you teach depends on their learning style, their individual skill sets, their interests, their goals, and so on.

What works for one kid, might not work for another. One child might need help with turn taking skills, while another child might need help with being a good sport.

In the case of a hyperlexic child, for instance, using their ability to read is a great way to teach them social skills. That's why tools like written social scripts are so effective with these kids.

Or, as another example, many autistic children benefit from using visual prompts so try to include visual aids or cues when teaching social skills.

How To Teach Social Skills at Home or in the Classroom

There are lots of different social skills to teach your child at home or in the classroom. This list of 50 social skills is pretty comprehensive, but I also know how overwhelming it can be to tackle that entire list.

Remember, these are skills that you are helping your child to learn over the course of many years.

Psst, many adults still struggle with some of these social skills so trust me, you've got plenty of time to work on them.

So what do you think? Are you ready to dive into these strategies?

Let's do it!

1. Explain Social Interactions

Explain all the ins and outs of different social situations to your child. That may include:

  • Using social stories to explain different skills and situations
  • Outlining the hidden rules of the situation
  • Breaking the skills down into smaller steps
  • Verbally explaining the situation directly to your child
  • Using visual cue cards to outline the different steps involved or support your child during the situation (e.g., these turn taking cue cards)
  • Watching video clip examples and discussing what happens or what's involved
  • Reading picture books together on the particular skill or topic you are addressing and discussing the social rules mentioned
  • Narrating and describing your own social skills to your child (e.g., "I really want a turn to play this game so I'm going to ask, 'May I have a turn please?'")
  • Providing written scripts of the language they can use during social interactions

2. Be Patient

Social skills don't come easy to many people so remember to be patient. Your child might need to be reminded of hidden rules through prompting. And they might need to practice the skills many, many times before it sticks. And even when it does stick, they might still make mistakes, just like we do as grown adults from time to time.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice!

The more your child can practice, the better it will stick. Besides, there are lots of different ways to give your child an opportunity to practice including:

  • Role-playing the social scenarios
  • Rehearsing social scripts (this is really helpful for skills like greeting others, introducing yourself, etc.)
  • Playing games together (e.g., try one of these listening games or play a board game together)
  • Joining a group, team sport, camp, or activity club around your child's interest so they have an opportunity to interact with a variety of different people (e.g., science camp, social skills group, local hockey team, etc.)
  • Doing a variety of social skills activities
  • Practicing specifically what you want to work on
  • Providing different environments, people, and situations to practice in and with

4. Use Modeling & Be a Good Role Model Yourself

Want your child to have good social skills? Model them yourself. I mean if you are terrible at sharing or taking turns, then how can you reasonably expect your child to be good at the skill themselves?

Children are always watching so make sure that what you are modeling is what you want them to emulate in the future.

Video modeling is another option for modeling social skills. You can find lots of videos on YouTube for this purpose.

5. Prompt, As Needed

It's easy to forget all the steps involved or even the hidden rules of the social situation, especially when you're just learning. So be sure to prompt your child, as needed, to help them be successful when they are practicing their social skills. You can try:

  • Prompting verbally (e.g., "It looks like you are wanting to play with that toy. You can ask your friend, 'May I have a turn with that toy please?' and maybe your friend will let you try it out.")
  • Using a visual prompt or aid (e.g., pointing to a visual cue card or a prewritten script to guide your child to know what comes next)

6. Provide Feedback, Encouragement, and Praise

Be sure to praise your child for their efforts! And encourage them to try out their new skills and/or encourage them for trying, especially if anxiety or sensory needs made it particularly challenging. Offer them feedback on what went well, what could be improved, etc.

Your praise and encouragement will motivate them to keep learning, while your feedback gives them the tools to be more successful in the future.

Other Social Skills Resources You'll Love

Printable Social Stories

List of 50 Social Skills

How to Teach Kids About Personal Space

Teaching social skills to an autistic child

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