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Developing your adolescent’s social skills

Developing your adolescent’s social skills

Social skills: what are they and why are they important?

Social skills are the foundation for interacting with peers and adults at home and in the community. They help us build friendships, form relationships, and interact in group activities. We use our social skills every day when interacting with people for example ordering a coffee, chatting with a friend or playing a team sport.

Social skills include understanding and using appropriate body language and facial expression, greeting others, starting a conversation, staying on topic, turn-taking, asking questions, making comments, and understanding humour and sarcasm.

Social skills difficulties can lead to frustration, confusion and exclusion or isolation from peers.

Therapy Pro speech and language pathologists often work with children and adolescents to identify particular social skills difficulties, deficits, and challenges, and then together, develop a tool kit of strategies that can be practiced and used in social situations like school, and at home with family members.

Who can benefit from support with social skills?

Everyone! Social skills continue to develop and change throughout our lives. Social skills difficulties can become more visible in teenage years.  This is because while everyone develops at different rates, adolescents have complex verbal and nonverbal interactions with their peers. When a child does not meet the expectations of the adults and peers around them, their lack of skills in this area, stands out. Children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) particularly struggle with social skills. Working on social skills in a group setting is a great way to develop and practice these skills supported by a skilled therapist who can lead and facilitate the group.

What things can I do, as the parent or carer, to build my loved one’s social skills?

As a parent/carer or someone working with an adolescent with social skills difficulties you can:

  • Find out which specific social skills your child needs support with
  • Take a step back and be a social observer with your loved one. Sit down for a drink in a busy place (e.g. shopping centre) and look at what people are doing and how they’re interacting.  You can focus on specific goals areas for your family member.
  • Practice the skills with your child, for example role play a conversation while staying on topic.
  • Use praise when your child displays good social skills, for example, if they ask you an appropriate question respond with ‘good question…’
  • Be a social role model, children are very good at copying and modelling the behaviour of adults.
  • Be patient; social communication is a skill that needs lots of practice and will continue to develop and improve overtime and with confidence.
  • Read this article on tips for supporting your ASD child during the holidays
  • Contact us about one on one therapy sessions, which can help to develop tools and strategies in all ages of children to navigate milestones like starting school or develop relationships with peers and family members.

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