Social Skills: Familiarizing AAC Users with Social Interactions
🗝️ It is essential to help children develop their social skills to help them communicate efficiently and build meaningful relationships (friendships).
🗝️ AAC users can create or improve social skills. They need a calm and patient approach, support, and approval in the process.
🗝️ There are many methods and strategies to ease the learning of social skills and make it enjoyable.
🗝️ All of the skills are teachable through modeling. Use your AAC device and guide the user by explaining and exemplifying the concepts.
Social needs, not social skills
Have you ever met someone who handles social interactions so naturally that people say: "They are just born with it"? Of course, it might've been actually you who said it. But are they actually born with it?
Scientists are trying to figure it out by conducting many types of research. But, until we have concrete proof that social skills might be, in fact, genetic, this is what we know for sure: we, as humans, are social creatures.
When a baby is born, it has social needs, not social skills. Children accumulate social aptitudes from others. This is why interacting with a child is as essential as it is a delicate matter. They have no set standards about communication, no prejudice or understanding of stereotypes. Their mind is like an empty board on which we must write carefully. The interactions occurring around them can and will influence them.
At first, parents are the ones who build up the children's social skills. But, despite that, those social aptitudes don't stagnate after the first years of acquiring them. Instead, they should constantly improve. If it's hard for a child to enhance those skills, we are the ones to help in need.
What are social skills? What you say vs. what you deliver
"It's not what you say, but how you say it!" - Mae West.
Social skills are the skills we use to interact with other people and communicate our message. Communication occurs both verbally and non-verbally (using body language and gestures).
Humans developed many ways to deliver their thoughts to the outside world. We are constantly improving those ways or creating others.
What are some valuable social skills for kids?
Sharing is a problematic idea for children, especially toddlers. But this is a normal occurrence. Small kids usually experience a sense of possessiveness regarding their belongings, especially toys or objects they are interested in. As a result, they don't feel the need to entertain others to maintain relationships.
We need to teach them how to share by the power of example and take our time to do it. Although they don't want to share, it's essential to guide them into doing it. Sharing helps children to bond with others, create friendships and communicate efficiently.
2. Active listening
Actively listening to others is a skill that requires considerable concentration to focus, so even grown-ups may find this challenging. It's necessary to be understanding and patient with children while guiding them into active listening. They can amplify or reinforce their spoken language comprehension with this skill mastered.
Here are some pieces of advice for you to initiate and support healthy communication exchanges:
✅ be patient and encourage them to engage in social interactions
✅ let them ask questions and answer them
✅ read stories to them and ask simple questions while reading: try to make sure they are engaging in the story and they understand it
✅ use gestures and verbally explain what they mean (e.g., nod your head for yes, point to something for that, shake your head for no, etc.)
Cooperating is closely related to collaborating. Your child will have to learn to share more than just toys, such as thoughts, opinions, tales, and tasks.
Working in groups will help them understand the concept of collaboration. The more they cooperate with others to complete verbal interactions or physical tasks, the faster they will be able to complete the assignments. In addition, it demonstrates to them that working on a group project can be enjoyable!
It doesn't have to be a difficult task. Try something such as:
✅ cleaning the table after they eat
✅ gathering up the toys after playing
✅ picking up clothes and sorting them when organizing the closet
✅ helping with cooking
Talk to them! Express your opinions and encourage them to share theirs. Aren't you on the same page? Do your ways of seeing and understanding things differ? Talk about it. Explain your view and encourage them to explain theirs. Make amends on a middle ground. By doing this, you will teach them to respect the opinions of others even if they differ from their own.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Empathy refers to the ability to relate to another person's pain vicariously, as if one has experienced that pain themselves. But, of course, this also goes for any feelings or thoughts.
By working on the sense of empathy, Your child will learn to appreciate the resemblances and distinctions between their life and others. In addition, they will discover how to empathize with individuals nonetheless their differences.
Start with exemplifying small gestures and don't expect them to feel and use empathy right away. Instead, be consistent, and in time, they will reciprocate.
Patience is necessary for various matters, including preserving friendships and relationships and attaining meaningful goals that require a long time span to fulfill.
The principle of delayed gratification comes into play in this situation. When you teach your child that good things take time, you cultivate a patient person in them.
Patience is learned through practice. Stay optimistic, and it will happen in time.
6. Understanding and respecting personal boundaries
Other people require different emotional and physical limits than you. This also goes for children.
Some kids are extroverted and outgoing, while others are introverted, simply shy, or don't like physical interactions.
Teaching your child how to ask permission and respect personal boundaries will help them acquire self-respect and respect those around them.
Try teaching them to ask questions such as:
💬 "Would you like to hold hands?"
💬 "Would you like a hug?"
💬 "Would you like to play together?"
💬 "Would you like to share our toys and play together?"
To sum up:
It is necessary to assist children in expanding social skills as they are essential to communicate effectively and form meaningful relationships.
Users of AAC devices can develop or improve their social skills. However, they require patience, support, and approval throughout the process.
There are numerous methods and strategies to make social learning skills more effortless and enjoyable.
AAC users can develop all the skills through modeling: use your AAC device to guide the user through the concepts by explaining how and why to use them.
Tip: If you need more information about efficiently modeling to help the AAC user improve their speech production and social skills, check this article written just for you: https://www.fluentaac.com/modeling-aac.