Social Skills Can Develop With Help
Children are natural social butterflies. Exploring the world is exciting, fun, and important for them, and this includes socializing with friends. While many children find it easy to make new friends and navigate social settings, some have more of a difficult time.
It’s very possible that children are just shy or unsure of themselves and will eventually find their stride, but some need more help than others. Children with learning difficulties, for example, can find it harder than their peers when it comes to socializing.
Why Are Social Situations So Challenging?
Depending on the cause of the learning difficulty, this question can have many answers. Most commonly, though, the learning difficulty itself can cause low self-esteem, causing children to be more insecure around their peers. They’re less likely to join group activities — such as games, sports, etc. — and feel less comfortable approaching other children to initiate conversation.
Yet another reason children with learning difficulties find social situations challenging is based purely on environment. Children see each other at school more than anywhere else, and schools are crowded, noisy places. For a child who has difficulty with focus when there are so many distractions present, this can mean they struggle with communication. The loud noises and various activities of a school playground, for example, could make having a simple conversation with a friend feel impossible.
Furthermore, the overloading of brain activity related to trying to hear language crowds out learning facial cues. This is another reason children with learning difficulties might have a hard time in social situations. Determining what facial expressions mean can be challenging and send the wrong message to someone who interprets them differently. This causes confusion, frustration, and anxiety in many children, giving them a reason to stop trying to communicate.
Ways To Help Children Child Develop Socially
Without a doubt, the best way to help your child’s social skills is to target the underlying learning impediments and causes of brain overloading that is making the learning of social cues a challenge. If learning interventions are not successful, or perhaps rather alongside pursuing learning help, there are methods you can turn to.
Depending on factors including the child’s specific learning challenge, along with their unique personality and the type of social struggle they need help with all come into play, and it may take some time to figure out which method works best. Some options that may help include:
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (or ABA) acts as an extra mirror for children, helping them to learn by reflecting their behavior back to them. It’s a very effective method of therapy that works to improve social, communication, and learning skills. While it is often used to help children with Autism and other developmental disorders, it can be a useful tool in other situations as well. For example, children with anxiety related conditions, anger management issues, and borderline personality disorder can also benefit from ABA.
ABA works in phases, with a high level of parent involvement. Its specific course is uniquely tailored to the child’s individual needs and is conducted by an ABA certified therapist. There will be an initial consultation, followed by a plan that is created for the child’s specific situation.
Parents can expect regular evaluations and modifications, based on what is or is not working. Getting as many people involved as possible (teachers, grandparents, etc.) will help to ensure the success of the therapy by providing consistency for the child.
Social Skills Training (SST)
Social Skills Training works on skills situation by situation. It can also be helpful in children with other types of learning difficulties. Like ABA, it is also tailored to fit the specific needs of each child and can have great variation depending on factors like the age and skill level of the child involved. Parents can train to implement Social Skills Training at home, but it’s also practiced by teachers, psychologist, behavior analysts, and therapists.
SST can help social skills improve in a wide variety of ways, including helping children achieve the skills of appropriate eye contact, understanding facial cues and emotions, empathy, proper greetings, and assertiveness, to name a few. Social Skills Training is evidence based, and has significant, quality research published regarding its effectiveness.
Some forms of Social Skills Training might be Peer Mediated Instruction, Video Modeling, or Social Stories and Scripts. These all work slightly differently to achieve a common goal and are used interchangeably dependent on the child’s age and/or skill level. The common theme throughout SST is creating structure, setting relevant, achievable goals, and attaining those goals through a series of actions, or steps.
Addressing the Underlying Learning Difficulty
One more way to help children that struggle with both learning difficulties and social skills is to address the underlying learning difficulty. While social skills are important and should be encouraged (either through one of the above methods or another form of therapy that works for the individual child), the learning difficulty itself plays a significant role regarding the challenges with social skills.
There are many diagnostic tests, therapies, and other forms of support that can help children to master their learning challenges, which will also serve to increase their confidence. In a sort of snowball effect, confidence leads to more interaction with peers, potentially leading to more positive experiences in social settings, and eventually developing the social skills that were once lacking.
This is Gemm Learning’s purpose – learning interventions for different learning challenges like dyslexia and reading difficulties. Many clients report improved confidence in learning and in life, which helps create comfort in social situations.
When parents see their children struggling, whether it be academically or socially, their first instinct is to help. This is much easier to do when they understand how they can be of assistance, and how they can advocate for their children.
Learning struggles can often lead to social struggles, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. By helping children to learn social skills as well as overcome their learning difficulties, there is more of a chance that they’ll thrive in both academic and social settings.