Homeschool.com Blog

Over the last two days, I have written about social skills. On Monday, I compared socialization to social skills. Tuesday, I addressed how children learn social skills and gave some ideas on activities homeschoolers can do to assist in teaching those skills. Today, I wish to start tackling the topic of social skills and those children that have a more difficult time learning those skills.

These children are often on the autism spectrum or have some other unique learning challenge. Many have communication and/or sensory issues. Homeschooling these children not only help them academically but help in the realm of social skills.

Many people over look the need to be able to communicate when they think about teaching social skills. However, how can one interact with others in any format, if they are unable to communicate at all? So, a good starting point when thinking about social skills is for you to find a way to help your child learn how to communicate, even if it is in a limited capacity.

Of course, the first idea to help with communication is speech and language therapy. One does need to determine if your child just needs articulation assistance or if the child also needs to address things like pragmatics. If your child only has articulation problems, then speech therapy alone may help them. However, if your child has problems with pragmatics along with articulation, then you will require speech and language therapy. Either of these therapies can prove quite helpful.

Along with speech and language therapy, or in lieu of, you could pursue the use of PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) cards with your child. This system has you buy or make common pictures so your child can ask for food, drink, state he is happy, needs to go to the bathroom, he is having fun, etc. This is a highly effective means of communication until the child can become more vocal. More on this system can be found at http://autism.about.com/od/treatmentoptions/a/PECS.htm.

Another option a parent could utilize is sign language or cued speech. In both scenarios, you and your child would utilize your hands to communicate needs, desires, and emotions. They are not, however, the same thing nor are they related. Sign language is actually considered its own language where as cued speech is considered an extension of the language spoken by the family. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cued_speech)

A form of communication is the basis in order to learn and teach social skills. Without a viable way to communicate, inappropriate and even aggressive behaviors can occur. If a child does not know how to say “Let’s play”, they may hit another child to get their attention and to try and communicate that desire. So, if a parent can assist the child to find a form of communication, even if it is just temporary until they can effectively verbally communicate, then they are so much further on the path of teaching appropriate social skills than they will be without it.

Since this topic could fill an entire book, I am going to spread this out over several days. I will break each section down into small bits for you to digest before I present another aspect. So, come back tomorrow and I will address the first few steps in getting our unique learners to “play nice” with other children.

For a discussion on this topic and others, please go to our discussion forums at http://forum.homeschool.com/forum/forum_topics.asp?FID=51.

Written by: Susan Harris
Homeschool.com News Editor

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