Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Teaching Social Skills

By Joel G. France, Ed. D.
Dimond HS, Anchorage, AK

What are social skills?
The word "social" means relating to the way people in groups behave and interact. To be socially adept involves a vast amount of skills.
Most children, at a very young age, begin learning the building blocks for interacting with others through observation. As they get older they continue to “pick up” the many unwritten rules of social discourse with little formal teaching.
The ability to perform a given skill actually is comprised of several crucial activities occurring nearly simultaneously. The socially competent person must:
Initially be motivated to perform socially appropriate behaviors
Be able to perceive social situations accurately and identify which skill to use
Be able to decode and correctly interpret information from others
Perform the correct verbal and nonverbal responses that make up the skill
Be sensitive to social feedback
Be able to integrate that feedback appropriately to enhance social interaction
(Hazel et al., 1983)

If it sounds complex, it’s because when you have to teach it, it is.

Why teach social skills?
To increase independence
To increase opportunities for friendships
To increase understanding of and responsiveness to others
To help to successfully meet the demands of adulthood

By teaching social skills you are not changing the “core” of the child but giving them the tools to participate smoothly with others. Most children with social skills deficits want to participate with peers but don’t know how. They need active intervention and direct skills teaching to increase their own feelings of social competence.
The following chart lists typical child development through elementary school. As you’ll see there are many developmental areas that if not addressed can affect a child’s social relationships.
Developmental Tasks in Four Areas of Child Development
Elementary school ages 6-12
Self control development
Uses thoughts to direct own behavior
Develops beginning problem-solving skills
Manages impulses
Develops awareness of own behavior

Social Development
Understands others’ perspectives
Conforms to peer group norms and standards
Solves social problem
Plays fair
Has primarily same gender friends

Academic Development
Concentrates and stays on-task
Organizes school materials and tasks
Begins to develop special skills and interests

Affective Development
Overcomes fears
Regulates strong emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness
SOURCE: TD Social Skills
URL: http://www.tdsocialskills.com/index.htm