blueballoon recognizes that children with developmental and/or learning delays, are frequently challenged in the area of social skills development. Generally, this is because most social skills are acquired or reinforced through social and observational interaction. Depending on their learning profile, many students with special needs may have difficulty learning and absorbing new information and skills this way. We believe that social skills are a critical part of a child’s overall development and offer a targeted approach to teaching social skills.
Enhancing Social Skills with Peers
Social skills are best learned through experience interacting with peers and direct adult coaching of moment to moment interactions. Although social skills are complex and inter-connected, the following list can serve as an outline of skills to assess, teach, coach, observe for, and then consistently reinforce with praise or tangible rewards. Role playing is helpful for teaching these skills. Many social skills and conventions are learned from observation of social interactions (termed vicarious learning, social modeling). As key role models, it is important for adults to reflect upon relationship lessons we are imparting to children through our everyday actions with others. Because children learn through social modeling, we can use “teachable moments” (that don’t necessarily involve the child directly) arising from real life situations or depicted by TV shows, movies, or books.
The basic skills a child needs for healthy relationships are listed below as overall goals
Learning to feel along with others:
- Must first be able to “read” own and other’s emotions
- Must understand and label emotions: happy, sad, scared or worried, angry, interested, surprised, disgusted etc.
2. Perspective taking
For some, this skill develops naturally, but for others it needs to be taught, though helping the child think about:
- If I were in the other person’s shoes and this was happening to me, what would I see, hear, sense – what would I know and how would I know it, what would I want to happen? What emotions would I feel?
3. Impulse control
Again, this capacity develops in early childhood, but for children who are impulsive they can learned to control their impulses through highly rehearsed self-calming and problem solving strategies.
This can be fostered through a warm and caring relationship, though inductive discipline (explaining the reason for rules and behavioural expectations) and through consistent positive reinforcement for cooperative behaviour.
5. Conflict resolution skills
This can only be learned and utilized once child has some degree of proficiency with all the skills mentioned above. To resolve conflict, individuals must be able to:
- Use self-calming strategies
- Listen to another’s person’s point of view and respect the other’s person right to this point of view, even if it conflicts with one’s own
- Express one’s own point of view with confidence and respect for the other
- Be able to generate new solutions to the problem – compromise, turn taking, agreeing to disagree, etc.
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