Developing social skills in children

Shria Abrol

Social skills are the skills we use to communicate and interact with each other, both verbally and non-verbally, through gestures, body language and our personal appearance. Human beings are sociable creatures and we have developed many ways to communicate our messages, thoughts and feelings with others.Too often, social deficits are dismissed as a lack of desire on the child’s part. Yet, research indicates that social performance has far less to do with interest or what is DESIRED, and far more to do with what skills have been ACQUIRED. Children can’t “know better” if they haven’t been taught.
Children who lack social skills
* Become more insecure about their self-worth
* Become more doubtful about their ability to do well in social situations
* Feel more anxious and worried in social situations
* Miss chances to gain social practice and experience
* Pick up unhelpful social behaviours and beliefs, instead of learning better onessome strategies that can be used to develop social skills in children.
Skill streaming: – one of the method to teach social skills to children is skill streaming. Four steps in the method are modelling ( showing them how to act), role-play (inacting a situation), performance feedback (giving rewards for good behaviours) and transfer training.
Social stories: – Social Stories are a concept devised by Carol Gray in 1991 to improve the social skills of people. Social stories model appropriate social interaction by describing a situation with relevant social cues, other’s perspectives, and a suggested appropriate response.
Cognitive picture rehearsal – In this method, the sequence of the behaviour is in the form of pictures. Children are exposed to the pictures regularly so that they are able to form a mental schema for that behaviour. The instructions are also in picture form. For example a picture set can be made on appropriate table manners.
Pivotal response training: – PRT technique was devised as an intervention for children with autism specifically but is used with other children for whom social skill is a challenge. This method aims at involving peers and educating them with strategies to encourage the participation of children with social skill deficit. Strategies like-
* Gaining attention, Giving choices to maintaining motivation, Model social behaviour, Encourage conversation, Turn taking, Extend conversation and Narrative play
Videotaping is another method which give opportunities for self-modeling and self-review. Thought and feeling activities are also used for social skill training. It includes picture identification, video footage and thought bubble
Being a child counsellor , I often come across children who are very bright and academically brilliant but they can’t excel due to lack of social skills. While working with children on daily basis I have come down to a conclusion that it’s very important for parents and educators to help children identify and label feelings and express them. Parents must teach children to learn the techniques of problem solving and decision making instead of doing it for them. As parents and educators we must make children sensitive towards social issues and help them Understand perspective of others. Parents must also set firm behavioural norms for development of social skills. Last but not the least, educators and parents must focus on non-verbal communication as well, its immensely important to enhance non-verbal communication for developing social skills.