Supporting children to develop their social skills

I’ve received a lot of messages from teachers wondering about the different activities/ resources that I would recommend for developing social skills so I plan on writing about them here.

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What are social skills?

Social skills are the skills we use to interact with one another both verbally and non verbally through gestures, body language and personal appearance.

  • Eye contact
  • Turn taking
  • Sharing
  • Identifying emotions (Saying how he/she feels)
  • Explaining emotions (Saying why he/ she feels sad/happy/angry etc.)
  • Managing emotions (Acting appropriately despite feeling angry/happy/sad)
  • Personal space
  • Tone of voice
  • Body language and gestures

For most children, these skills come naturally but for some they can struggle with these skills.

Personally, when teaching these social skills I try to use the school environment, use ‘real life’ situations to teach how to behave appropriately, and use materials and resources that are readily available.

Observe

Watch how the child behaves in different situations. Identify the areas where he/she might need support.

Teach the skill

Teach the skill – using a social story e.g. when I feel angry I can… This gives the child the opportunity to think about how to react to different situations in a safe and secure environment. They may then make the right choice when a situation arises.

Talk About It

Sometimes the child may have reacted inappropriately to a situation and you are working with them afterwards so this gives you the chance to talk about it.

  • What happened?
  • How did you feel?
  • What did you do?
  • What happened then?
  • How do you feel about it now?
  • What might be a better way to deal with that situation?

talk-about

Strategy; Stop – Think – Decide

This is a brilliant strategy to teach the children. When something happens that they are not comfortable with/ happy about then they stop what they are doing.

Think about what they can do (and the consequences associated with each decision).

Decide on the best thing to do.

(Usually this happens really quickly but it gives the child a chance to think before they react/ have an outburst).

stop-think

Strategies and Resources

To develop social skills, children need to be working with their peers. The way a child behaves with an adult (especially a teacher) should be different to how they behave with other children. While specific skills can be first taught in a 1:1 session, the child then needs to work in a group with other children to put that skill into practice.

There are hundreds of different programmes/resources available but they can be very expensive so I tend to use materials that I have readily available in the classroom.

Card games and board games work really well – they are fun and enjoyable for the children but it also gives them a chance to practice a variety of social skills; turn taking, winning and losing, sharing, tone of voice etc.

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For listening and following instructions – I get the children to make a lego model or a piece of jewellery using beads/buttons.

Sports are also brilliant to learn different social skills. Once again children learn lots of different skills; turn taking, winning and losing, identifying and explaining emotions.

Useful Links

101 Ways to Teach Children Social Skills – this PDF document is brilliant. I printed it out today and plan on going through each lesson/activity and deciding which things will work best for the children I’m working with. There are 101 different ideas covering all social skills from communication to expressing your feelings. The document is FREE to download here.

Lots of useful downloads here from Autism Teaching Strategies.

My Social Stories are available below.

 

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