Some of our students find communicative interactions throughout their day as very challenging. Often times, children with difficulties in the social thinking realm carry an Autism Spectrum, Behavioral or Emotional diagnosis. These children are unsure of how to use their language to achieve a variety of communication goals such as requesting, informing, expressing, regulating, ritualizing, persuading and organizing.
Our social thinking abilities are something that usually develop naturally from infancy. For disordered social thinkers, this process is anything but natural. When we find ourselves in any communicative interaction, it is typical to think about the other person. Do they look agitated? Are they in a hurry? Does he understand what I need etc.? These impressions guide how we react and how we manage the interaction within the communication dynamic.
Children with disordered social thinking often are said to have difficulties with perspective taking. They cannot understand another’s point of view or the fact that people can view or react differently to the same situation . Other social skill issues include difficulty joining into a conversation, poor eye contact, maintaining a topic of conversation, and managing emotions, just to name a few.
Children with social issues need direct and explicit teaching of these skills , as they did not learn them typically through observation in natural contexts. Once a child has learned a specific skill with their therapist or counselor, they can then practice the skill in a structured group. Often times after this point the skills can be practiced in a more naturalistic setting such as out on the playground or in a lunch group .
The ability to be social and socially appropriate is difficult for many but may be a significant, if not primary factor in one’s academic and professional development at any age. There are many treatment strategies available if you suspect that your child needs help to improve their social thinking throughout their school day.
Randi Weinberg MA/CCCslp