Social development is very important to one’s overall well-being. As we begin to explore one’s social history, it is difficult for some to understand the importance of this. “Why do you want to know if I have friends? What does it matter if I have been bullied or had some trouble getting along with other kids at school?” Disorders along the autistic spectrum, particularly Asperger’s syndrome, are hallmarked by impairments in social development. Furthermore, some children’s lack of social
skills may contribute or be symptoms of other disorders such as depression or anxiety. The history of one’s ability to interact with others and his/her comfort in doing so is a key ingredient to a thorough assessment and identifying goals for treatment.
It is often important to get information from parents, teachers, or other adults to accurately assess the skills one has developed to respond appropriately to others. For a child who struggles with entry skills, it may be difficult to accept cues from other children when interested in interacting or in initiating play. A child lacking this skill can easily be left out by other peers, as he or she may appear as though there is no interest in participating. He or she may want to play ball with others
on the playground but may walk around the game going on while looking away from his or her peers.
Other kids may have difficulty asking for help from others. For one, they may not know that this knowledge is available to
attain from others. It may also be difficult for them to know how to ask for this help. A child lacking this social skill may walk
around the library endlessly wondering what to do with his or her books while the librarian sits available to offer assistance.
The purpose and intention of compliments may also be difficult for some children to understand. Modeling ways to acknowledge, express appreciation, or show that we like or care about something is an important part of social development.
Some may see a child lacking this skill as ungrateful or even rude.
Learning appropriate interpretation can serve as a challenging feat for a child developing skills in handling criticism. Some children may misinterpret the volume of an adult who may be giving a direction. Such a child may also have difficulty distinguishing a personal attack versus a correction for a behavior. Questions and suggestions can also be difficult for a child to discern and contributes to a child perceiving them as criticism. This becomes more troubling if the child also lacks skills in accepting suggestions. A child who struggles for control and routine may be opposed to learning different ways of handling social situations.
One of the key ingredients to any friendship is sharing. It is important to recognize that some children lack interest in the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others. It may be difficult for a child lacking this skill to consider that another peer may want or like the same toy that he or she has. Conflict over the toy may be startling for the child, as he or she hasn’t recognized the significance of the toy in his or her hand. Sharing conversation may even be difficult. When approached by another peer who asks a question, the child lacking this skill may ignore his peer completely.
Conflict resolution is a skill that requires ongoing development in most social realms. This skill is more challenging to a child who may misinterpret someone’s disagreement about an object or activity that he/she likes as rejection of who he/she is. It’s increasingly difficult when this is partnered with difficulties with skills in expressing empathy. Empathy includes developing ways to respond to someone as well as distinguishing who it’s appropriate for. For instance, empathy displayed to a stranger is different than what can be expressed to someone the child knows.
Monitoring and listening involve development in the awareness of the world surrounding the child. It also involves awareness of others’ interpretations of communication including what’s said, the actions, and the body language that is presented. A child lacking this skill may approach another peer, who is standing with his or her arms crossed with a scowled face, without recognizing that the peer is angry.
All of the social skills described require practice for a child who has impaired development or who lacks some of these skills. A child who is frequently picked on by peers or picked last may be struggling with social skills. Playing board games at home is one easy and inexpensive way to offer practice with social skills. Highlighting appropriate exchanges between opponents and the interactions that should and shouldn’t occur can be very helpful. Providing opportunities and structured socialization is essential to offering assistance with a child’s social development. But perhaps the first step in helping your child develop these skills is to become aware if there is a problem with your child’s social skill development. Once identified, the focus can be on helping the child master the skill development needed.
Romanowski Bashe, P. and Kirby, B.L. (2001). Oasis guide to Asperger syndrome: advice, support, insight, and inspiration. New York: Crown Publishers.Tags: children social skills, practice social skills, social skill sharing with others
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Jody Johnson, LICSW, LIMHP, began working at Wholeness Healing Center as a therapist in 2007. Jody graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her Masters in Social Work. She received her bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
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