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4 Simple Ways to Teach Your Child Social Skills

4 4 Simple Ways to Teach Your Child Social Skills
Expert Name: Julie Nagy-Morris, MSW, LISW-S
Expert Title: MSW, LISW-S
Company Name: Step By Step Academy
Company URL:www.stepbystepacademy.org
Short Bio:  Julie is an experienced Social Worker with over 7 years of experience working with children in both educational and clinical settings.

At Step by Step Academy, Julie provides case management services and individual and group counseling to adolescents with Autism and their families. Her responsibilities also include development and delivery of training programs for parents and staff.

Julie graduated from Ohio State University in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. In 2003, she earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work (with a Clinical concentration and School Social Work specialization). Julie is a Licensed Independent Social Worker Supervisor (LISW-S) and holds a School Social Work (SSW) License from the Ohio Department of Education.

4 Simple Ways to Teach Your Child Social Skills

Why are social skills so important? Well for several reasons, and it’s not just about making friends. Socialization opens up a whole new world to a child and leads to an infinite amount of natural learning opportunities, not only at school but also within the community. Think about how much information you have obtained from others just by asking simple questions.

Recently, I was in session with a consumer who has autism and we were working on improving his social skills. I told him that when you greet someone it’s appropriate to say “Hi, how are you?” His response was priceless… “I just don’t get why people even ask that, everyone just says ‘I’m ok’. What’s the point?”

It’s moments like these when a clinician can’t help but laugh and appreciate the honest insights of a child. At one point we’ve all pondered this and perhaps have also been annoyed by the somewhat superficial nature of many human interactions.

I explained that asking this question was a “social norm” and that in all honesty, social norms aren’t always logical but they do put other people at ease. Sometimes (but not always) if you are friends with the other person they will tell you if they are sad, angry or frustrated. In that situation, you should show that you care by asking questions or showing sympathy before jumping into a conversation about yourself. He seemed to understand that, but more importantly, I think that he appreciated the fact that an adult could relate to his quandary.

Don’t we all seek understanding? If you have patience and take the time to explain the necessity of having good socials skills, your child will be more receptive to learning. Here are 4 tips to get your child started on the path to improving their social skills…

• Eye contact – Try this with your child. Say “Look at me-1…2…3”. Children and adolescents on the spectrum usually struggle greatly with forming and maintaining eye contact. However, when they know it will just be for a few seconds it seems more manageable. Once they are able to demonstrate this skill, ask that they do the same with friends and family members. The goal is that they can eventually generalize this to people outside their immediate environment.

• “Hi, how are you?” – We’ve already discussed this but really encourage your child to always use this question as a conversation starter.

• Use Names – Dale Carnegie, author of the classic book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, stated that, “a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in the English language.” Encourage your child to always address people by their first names as much as he or she is able.

• Ask lot of questions – We teach our consumers that the easiest and best way to make friends is to show interest in their peers. Encourage your child to get outside their “comfort zone” of the things they are fixated on and find out what their peers are interested in.

Make sure to encourage socialization on daily basis. Take advantage of the fact that children and adolescents with autism thrive on repetition. While the outside world may seem scary and confusing to so many individuals on the spectrum, we need to keep in mind that using appropriate social skills will be necessary throughout their life. In fact, parents, professionals and researchers agree that developing appropriate social skills can and will lead to a better quality of life.

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Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

Mother Child
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