Everyday interactions and play help develop children’s social skills naturally. But as parents of children with autism and other special needs know, developing certain social skills can sometimes be difficult. Fortunately, there are research-supported strategies for practicing social skills with your child that can be incorporated into their everyday life. Here, our team outlines some of these strategies.
Reading faces and interpreting emotions can be a challenge for children with special needs. For instance, children can easily mistake a look of concern for anger or disappointment. Help your child practice identifying different emotions by playing Charades. Write down feelings, such as happy, sad, hurt and angry, on small pieces of paper. Take turns picking a piece of paper with a word on it and acting that word out. Or, try playing bingo or the matching game. Bingo or matching boards and cards with pictures and words of emotions can be found online.
Understanding turn-taking, including when to go first or last, can be difficult for children and adults with special needs. Practice turn-taking at every possible opportunity — when having a conversation, getting into a car, using the computer, etc. Games that require two players and taking turns like block building and boards can also help.
Sometimes pushing long periods of socializing onto your child can overwhelm them. Identifying moments when your child has had enough and is ready to go (before they become agitated) can help avoid outbursts and meltdowns. It is also a good idea to have a signal your child can use to communicate that they do not want to socialize anymore. Keep playdates and socializing events short at first (no more than an hour). You can add more time to play dates gradually as your child becomes more comfortable.
Keep in mind that each child’s needs are different. Feel free to modify these tips and activities to fit your child’s specific needs. To learn more tips on how to build your child’s social skills, please speak to a member of our team today. A qualified therapist from our team will gladly meet with you to discuss your child’s needs and design a customized plan for them. Schedule a consultation by calling our Beverly Hills office (310) 659-9511.