5 Tips for Teaching Social Skills
Socialization is a big step in a child’s life, but presents a particular challenge for parents of children with autism. Trouble with social skills both verbal and nonverbal, as well some level of difficulty in establishing relationships with and interacting with other people make the task a little harder.
Social skills that a child needs to pick up include conversational skills, conflict resolution, interpreting and responding to others emotions and body language, making friends, joining in play, and self-regulating, among others.
While it may take extra effort and practice than with other children, these social skills can be taught and generalized. Here are some tips to help ease your way to teaching social skills to your child.
- Break it down
Use the entire arsenal of tools you have at your disposal, including task analysis and shaping. Rather than try and impart a new social skill all in one go, break it down to simpler, easier to learn steps. If the activity can be simplified to something sequential, do it and help the child master one phase at a time.
- Practice and familiarize
This can be applied through the use of social stories, practicing and role play to coach a child with autism on how to act in different situations.
- Set a schedule, practice new skills in a calm state.
Set a fixed time for learning. Do not try to teach social skills when the child is already in an elevated state. For instance, if the child is having an outburst that is not the best time to work on social skills. Do it at your scheduled time when the child is calm and receptive.
- Short and fun
Start with small fun sessions, then keep that fun going as the sessions get longer. Don’t try and cram in too much in the early days. Let the child get familiar and comfortable with the peers, group, and environment. End each session on a positive note.
- Teach to generalization
One thing that is sometimes overlooked is ensuring the skill that is being taught is generalized. They might be able to use that newly acquired skill adeptly with the adult who taught the skill, in a familiar environment or one similar to what they have been coached on. But generalizing that behavior in different scenarios is essential. One way around this is, is to ensure that when a certain skill is being taught loosely and is practiced in different scenarios, environments, and across different peers.