Social skills can be challenging to navigate for everyone. Even as adults, we often worry about our social interactions with others: Did our sentences come out the way we intended? Is our friend mad at us for a perceived social error? What did that facial expression speaking mean? We learn basic social skills by observing others and refining these skills as we grow up, but for children with autism, these skills may not come as naturally and easily. There are methods for directly teaching children with a disability that impacts their social skills. Here are some ways to practice at home.
Hundreds of card games are out there, from the simplest to the most sophisticated. All require someone to understand when it is their turn to play and when they must wait and allow someone else to play. Players must also learn how to act if they don’t want others to know what cards they have. This is useful because card playing can involve just two persons or as many as four or even six. Easy games include War, Concentration, and Go Fish. Slightly more challenging games include straight 10-card Gin and 5-card draw poker. You can make card playing more interesting once the child understands the games by playing for prizes like pennies, popsicle sticks, marbles, or chips. Cards are very portable, so you can take your games with you anywhere and practice social skills on the go.
Role play helps kids apply skills they’ve learned through hypothetical situations about real-life social scenarios. With role-play, your child can practice their skills in a low-risk environment with you before facing the problem head-on, giving them time to think through their reaction and choose the most appropriate response. Examples of role-playing scenarios include:
- Spell out an open-ended scenario, such as “What do we do when the doorbell rings?” or “What do we do if we’re lost?” And then play through different scenarios because there are likely several right answers.
- Write down several situations on pieces of paper and draw them out of a jar randomly. Then play out each scenario with your child.
- Set up a concrete situation like shopping in a store. One person can be the storekeeper, and one can be the buyer. Then switch roles.
Instead of using movie titles, animals, or other words, use emotions. Write down feeling words on pieces of paper and take turns picking one and then acting out the emotion. Or, you can draw the emotion rather instead of acting it out like in the game Pictionary. You can make it more challenging by setting a rule that you cannot draw a face to represent emotion. Instead, your child must express the feeling by drawing body language or aspects of a situation that would cause that emotion.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.