Children with special needs often face difficulties interacting with people around them. They may struggle to make eye contact, ask and answer questions, or respond appropriately in different social situations. As they lack the skills to socialize with others, children with special needs may be overwhelmed and prefer to keep to themselves instead. Social skills guide us to respond appropriately and interact with the world around us. As such, social skills therapy is increasingly relevant for children with special needs to learn the essential skills needed in today’s society.
One method that is widely used is social thinking. Social thinking involves the interpreting of others’ thoughts, emotions and beliefs together with the social situation – putting oneself in another person’s shoes and viewing the world from their perspective. It guides them to think about the effects of their own behavior on others and teaches them the more socially appropriate way to behave and respond to different situations.
Other aspects of social skills therapy include speech therapy as well as social skills groups. Speech therapy teaches children with special needs the rules of conversation and equips them with skills to communicate with others best as they can. In social skills groups, children with special needs are encouraged to engage in simple conversation and play under the supervision and guidance of therapists. Besides engaging in conversation, social skills groups can also carry out other activities such as cooking or building Lego, where each member of the group takes on a particular role in completing the activity. A study done by Bohlander, Orlich and Varley shows that there is a greater improvement in social skills when social skills group carry out social activities together. It also suggests implementing the group in a natural setting such as the children’s school, as this allows them to better generalize the skills they learn in their daily lives.
In recent years, drama therapy has emerged as a method to facilitate the learning of social skills for children with ASD. Drama therapy allows children with ASD to build on their strengths in speech imitation, as many tend to echo and repeat the words or phrases that caregivers often say to them. In this setting, children can learn to say their lines and imitate gestures as well as body movements of others. Furthermore, children can also work on improvisation in a social setting and develop better body language and speaking skills, all of which are important skills needed when interacting with other people.
Another possible treatment includes peer mentoring. Peer mentoring involves having a typically developing child interact with a child with ASD in a classroom setting. The peer will be taught to play and talk to the child with ASD even though he/she might not respond. This form of intervention benefits both parties, as both children learn to adapt and arrive at a common ground in order to interact with each other. As many children with special needs are attending mainstream schools today, peer mentoring is a potential alternative that can be implemented.
We have our own social skills classes that cater to children of different age groups at Nurture Pods as well. These classes will teach children essential communication skills that they need in their daily lives. Click on the following link for more information on the social skills classes at Nurture Pods! https://www.nurturepods.com/social-skills-class/
Bohlander, A.J., Orlich, F., Varley, C. K. (n.d.). Social Skills Training for Children with Autism. Retrieved from https://www.pediatric.theclinics.com/article/S0031-3955(11)00136-2/pdf
Morin, A. (n.d.). Treatment Options for Social Skills Issues. Retrieved July 27, 2019, from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/treatments-approaches/treatment-options/treatment-options-for-social-skills-issues
Rudy, L. J. (2018, September 14). How Drama Therapy Can Help People With Autism. Retrieved July 26, 2019, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-can-drama-therapy-help-people-with-autism-260295
Social Thinking’s Mission. (2015, February 16). Retrieved July 27, 2019, from https://www.socialthinking.com/LandingPages/Mission