Following on from our Social Skills Camp last week which was enjoyed by all we thought we would put together some helpful tips for parents to use at home with their child who may be experiencing difficulty in social settings.  These strategies can be factored into your every day and really help your child manage better in situations they are finding difficult. We hope you find them helpful .

  • Prompt your child to look at you when you/they are speaking. If you are completing another task, stop and focus your attention on your child to model for them and demonstrate appropriate eye contact.
  • Encourage your child to retell the events from their day, use meal times or quieter times in the day to do this and direct your attention towards your child, verbally prompt them if needed to look at you intermittently as they speak. Reflect on their eye contact, i.e. "you did lots of looking at me when you were telling the story"
  • Reinforce them when they do give you eye contact
  • Use role play and pretend play to include "conversation" and eye contact
  • Play games such as "Head Bandz" or use the app "Heads Up" which will encourage your child to direct their attention towards you when they are speaking/you are speaking.
  • During play/games introduce a "Talking prop", everyone must look at the person with the talking prop when they are speaking

Speaking in turn and waiting for communication partner to finish before commenting in conversation

  • Use a visual support/object (i.e. picture of a person speaking/small stuffed toy/ball etc.) when communicating in groups. Only the person with the prop is meant to speak. When they are finished speaking another child can ask for the prop in order to speak
  • In groups, encourage your child to signal when they want to speak, i.e. put up their hand. Acknowledge that you have seen they want to speak by placing your hand momentarily on their arm. Reinforce them for waiting, once you/the speaker is finished and allow them to have a turn speaking.
  • Use visuals to remind your child of appropriate conversation behaviors, i.e. listening, looking, waiting
  • Use reward system for “good” waiting and listening. If your child collects a agreed number of stars allow them to have small reward
  • Encourage children to make their conversation point in a relatively short space of time, so other children are not compelled to speak out of turn
  • Play games that involve conversation turn taking and timed speaking, i.e. Guess Who and Head Bandz

Initiating conversation

  • Role-play with your child, construct situations where they have to problem solve through conversation, i.e. getting directions if lost.
  • During everyday activities work on generalization, encourage your child to ask for items when shopping or at a restaurant.
  • Enroll your child in after-school clubs and groups to give them opportunities to interact with peers in a range of contexts.
  • Reward and reinforce positive interaction and initiations through verbal reinforcement. Visual charts can also be used with the entire family; stars can be given for “good communicators” and a prize given to the best communicator at the end of the week.

Topic selection & maintenance

  • Play simple group games such as head bandz, Articulate and 30 seconds to encourage your child to speak about a topic for a definite period of time.
  • At dinner time/family time, use “topic cards” to prompt your child to talk about a particular area.
  • After school, ask your child about their day, using open and closed questions, when and if needed. If your child is reluctant to give information, give them a goal, i.e. tell me 5 things about school today and then you can have the iPad/watch TV/have a treat.
  • Discuss potential scenarios with your child, i.e. what do talk to friends about versus what would you talk to a familiar adult or new person about. Discuss how to maintain a topic using non-verbal and verbal means, i.e. facial expression, eye gaze, asking questions.
  • Discuss peoples likes and dislikes as well as their interests, discuss the importance of talking about things both communication partners like rather than just one person’s interests.

Constructing a narrative and giving appropriate amounts of information

  • Encourage your child to retell events, i.e. their day. Give them targets within this context, start with WHO, WHERE and WHEN then give 5 things that HAPPENED before concluding. Use visuals if necessary in order to help them construct their story.
  • Read simple books and retell the story using the same structure above
  • Watch short TV programs and retell the story using the same structure above
  • Play games that involves making a story, give you child the key components to construct the story and make it fun by using famous people and interesting places, i.e. tell me a story about Justin Bieber, a farm and Christmas time.
  • Play games like Cluedo and other detective games to develop your child’s understanding of concepts such as WHO, WHERE and WHAT HAPPENED.
  • Give your child feedback when they give you a narrative, i.e. “that was a great story but you never told me when it happened!”
  • Record your child telling a story using an iPad, encourage them to reflect after and determine if they used the correct sequence and included the correct narrative components in their story.
  • If your child tends to give too much/little information when telling you a story, set them a goal, i.e. I want you to tell me the whole story in 6 pieces of information”, or “tell me 6 things about ….”

Social cues and inferencing

  • When looking at TV shows/films encourage your child to draw conclusions based on the situation, i.e. “how do they feel”, “what should they do”
  • Role-play with your child, discussing certain social situations, i.e. what to do if another child has a toy you want etc.
  • Work on identifying emotions and causes of certain emotions, i.e. happy, sad etc
  • Create hypothetical situations and ask your child what they should do, i.e. what should you do if you miss the bus, forget your homework, loose a game.

Tolerating losing a game and playing games in “different” ways”

  • Play a range of simple turn taking games with your child that involves “winning” and “losing”. Rather than focusing on who won the game focus on reinforcing appropriate group skills rather than the overall winner
  • Talk through “losing” a game with your child and reinforce appropriate behaviour. Consistently reinforce your child for “appropriate” behaviour around losing and redirect them to a new activity if they begin to become upset/frustrated after losing, reinforcing them for engaging in the new activity
  • Use games that can be played a number of different ways and encourage your child to engage in the activity despite it being played a different way to normal. Make “new” versions of the game fun and stimulating and reinforce your child for engaging, despite the fgame being differnet. Use visual reward charts to help focus your child on appropriate behaviour.

Appropriate group behaviour

  • Talk with your child about what is appropriate in a group and what is considered appropriate in a school/classroom context versus their home environment.
  • Create a reward system for appropriate behaviour, i.e. listening, following adult direction, cooperation etc.
  • Use simple stories/films/programs as scenarios of appropriate and inappropriate behavior and “troubleshoot” what the child did well and what they could work on for similar situations in the future

Developing non-verbal skills

  • Play simple Charades games to work on non-verbal communication.
  • Create funny situations where none is allowed to talk but a task must be completed, i.e. making Rice Krispie buns