The Importance of Social Skills Development
Social skills are essential for children to build relationships with friends and family, increase their communication skills, and help instill confidence and independence. Important social skills for a child to learn may include:
- Playing skills – such as sharing toys and taking turns
- Conversation skills – such as talking to friends or using body language to communicate in building relationships
- Emotional skills – such as managing personal emotions or having sympathy for how others are feeling
- Problem-solving skills – such as dealing with conflict
Learning these skills will help children understand how to behave in different social situations, enhancing communication with their peers. These skills can help a child with autism make new friends or discover new interests. These skills can also help the child feel a sense of belonging to a group. Good social skills will ultimatey benefit the child’s overall mental health and quality of life.
Strategies to Support Social Skills Development
Many different strategies that can help an autistic child develop social skills. Not only can parents help develop these skills, but group programs and visual supports may assist the child.
Social Skills Training (SST) refers to many different kinds of ways to increase social skills in people. This type of program may include instructions from peers, which can be less intimidating for the child. Another method is to use social stories or scripts, which give the child ideas from visual or written materials.
Visual modeling is an essential way to teach social skills. The child will watch a video that shows many different behaviors. The child will then attempt to copy those skills.
Parents can help the child by teaching and reinforcing social skills at home. Parents can educate themselves and then take the time to explain socially acceptable situations to the child.
Parents also want to reinforce positive behavior and practice social situations at home, away from others. As always, a parent must be patient with the child as they learn.
Visual supports around the house may also help the child develop social skills. These visual supports might include pictures or words. The visual supports might also include checklists or cards that prompt an action or response.
Integrating Social Skills Development into Everyday Life
When learning these skills, it is important for the child to use them every day. Parents should provide the child with many opportunities to use their new-found social skills through playdates or group activities. Building relationships is important to development, and parents might look for community events where the child can practice these skills.
Parents should encourage and support their child to make friends, either at school or in the community, to enhance communication skills. Parents should be ready to give guidance when needed and provide interactions to encourage their child to develop these peer relationships.
Parents should be aware of the child’s progress and regularly reassess the child’s development of social skills. If parents are aware of any problems, they can adjust strategies as needed to ensure continued growth and success.
If you have any issues or need guidance in this area, we are here to help. Supporting social skills development is so important for any child with autism. Using various strategies and integrating them into everyday life will help your child build essential relationships, enhancing communication and increasing independence.
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