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Basic Social Skills for an Early Learner

32 blog avatar Basic Social Skills for an Early Learner
Expert Name: Lynn M. Dudek M.S., CCC-SLP/MBA
Expert Title: M.S., CCC-SLP/MBA
Company Name:  ASDSLP, LLC
Company URL: ASDSLP@gmail
Short Bio: Lynn M. Dudek M.S., CCC-SLP/MBA is owner of ASDSLP, LLC. She is a speech-language pathologist who has specialized in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder for close to 20 years. Lynn has presented at the local,

state, and national level on topics regarding autism, communication and assessment. Her passion for advocacy, education, and effective treatment directs her professional and personal activities. Lynn recently completed coursework for completion of her BCBA. She currently serves on the Ohio Autism Coalition, the Autism Alliance and Advisory Board for speechpathology.com, and the National Autism Spokesperson Network.

Basic Social Skills for an Early Learner

Social skills is the “catch-all” term for all those behaviors that allow us to interact with our surroundings, other people, and control ourselves. Social skill development starts at a very young age – even a 6 week old baby will smile at their caregiver and respond to their parents’ voices. It is important to remember that social skills develop through an individual’s lifetime. However, the foundation for successful social skills is built in very early childhood.
Some important skills to develop include:

•    Pointing to a desired object
•    Following someone else’s point or eye gaze
•    Responding when your name is called
•    Waving/Saying HI and BYE
•    Taking turns
•    Imitating

As children continue to develop these skills it makes way for the development of more advanced skills such as:

•    following directions
•    more complex play
•    role playing
•    negotiating
•    problem solving

One of the best ways for children to learn early social skills is through the use of play. The old adage “play is a child’s work” is very true. If you think of the skills required to play ‘peek-a-boo’, ‘follow the leader’ or ‘ring-around-the-rosy’ they include looking at someone, responding, taking turns, and imitating. The more time children have to play, and play with other children, the more they can practice these skills.

Parents can get in on the playing too! Have your child imitate clapping or knocking patterns after you. Play board games like Candy Land to practice turn taking and matching. Playing catch and rolling a ball develops turn-taking and attention. And we all remember playing Simon Says – and what happens when you don’t follow the directions! Bringing music into play doubles the fun. Mix up “head-shoulders-knees-and-toes” to include other body parts in order to follow directions, develop attention, and enjoy some music!

Finally, try to find multiple times throughout the day to incorporate ways to work on these skills. In the morning, say “Hi Katie” instead of just good morning. Wait until your child looks at you or responds to their name. During meals, use their name and wait for a response, verbally or non-verbally, before giving them their cup or more to eat. Ask your child to point to what they want. Make sure your child waves/says HI and BYE when they see someone or leave a room. Practice is the key here and make sure you always require some type of response.

Look at how many times a day you use these basic skills – you will be surprised! Try to give your child more opportunities to practice these same skills- you won’t be sorry!


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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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