Social skills are critical to child development but are often overlooked. Studies have stated that “Planned and direct instruction in social skills empowers students to get their needs met in desirable ways, helps them learn important social behaviors to deal effectively with increased social demands, and positively impacts their academic learning.”(Cartledge & Lo, 2006) Listed below are some easy strategies to support social skill development in your child.
Toddler Achievement Program- TAP (ages 1.5-3.5)
- Set up opportunities for peer interaction. The more chances your child can practice appropriate social skills with other children, the better. It may be beneficial to start off with play groups involving 1 peer at a time until your child is more comfortable.
- Sit behind your child during the interaction so you can be ready to jump in and help if necessary. Move further away as your child becomes more independent.
- At this age, social skills instruction should be primarily focused on play activities, especially activities your child already enjoys! Focus on pairing preferred activities with peer interaction.
- Set up opportunities for your child to request things from peers. Try to make this a time where your child can see peers as a good thing. This is also a great time to work on responding to requests from peers.
School Readiness Program- SRP (ages 3.5-5)
- Encourage peer interaction as often as possible. It may be beneficial to start off with small groups to ensure your child is not overwhelmed.
- If your child already has the skills outlined in the TAP section, continue working on requesting and responding to requests from peers. Suggest an activity where there are a lot of opportunities for your child to ask the peer for different items or actions.
- Continue to fade your presence out of the peer interactions to increase independence.
- Set up opportunities for your child to work on turn taking. If this is a difficult skill for your child, consider using a visual turn taking board like the one below to help! Label each piece with the children’s names and use a 3D object such as a block to move around the board to signal who’s turn it is.
- Use books and movies to help your child develop language and problem solving skills similar to those used in everyday conversations. While watching a movie, pause it and ask your child different WH questions. Instead of giving them the answer directly, ask them leading questions that will help them come up with the answer on their own.
School Success Program- SSP (ages 5-10)
- If your child already has the skills outlined in the TAP and SRP sections, begin working on more advanced social skills such as beginning a conversation, dealing with teasing, or recognizing another’s feelings using Behavioral Skills Training (BST).
- Provide instructions: If your child is not engaging in a skill correctly (ex: you see that they are consistently not making eye contact with their peers), give them direct instructions on what to do.
- Model: Model the skill using the steps you provided to your child. Have your child label what you did correctly or incorrectly.
- Role-play: Practice the skill with your child. Give them feedback based on what they did correctly or incorrectly.
If you feel your child would benefit from more structured social skills teaching, BCOTB can help. We offer various aged social skills groups throughout the year at all three of our clinic locations. Initially, your child would receive a social skills assessment to determine what social skills program they would benefit from. After the assessment, you will have the opportunity to discuss your goals and concerns with our certified staff to help you prioritize your child’s treatment. Give us a call to find out how we can help your child.