“The greatest success we’ll ever know is helping others to succeed and grow”. It sounds cliché I know, but it really does epitomize why I do what I do. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the smile on a child and their families faces when they finally reach a goal we have been working towards or finalising those discharge papers that not too long ago seemed out of reach. If someone asked me to choose just one part of my job that I really love, it would be working alongside those children who experience difficulties with social communication. Let me tell you why.
Imagine being in a big room full of people and you knew no one. Imagine being told you had to spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week with these people. What would you do? Probably try and introduce yourself to someone right? But what if you didn’t know how to introduce yourself or you didn’t have the skills to be able to start a conversation with someone. It sounds uncomfortable but this is an unfortunate reality for many of our children.
To communicate freely with others, to be listened to and to be understood are communication rights for everyone. But too many people miss out. Why? Well because communication is a complex process. I won’t go into too much detail now about why that is, but one aspect that I will talk about is social skills.
Children’s learning of social skills can be powerful additions in their communicative toolkit. Teaching these social skills to our children prepares them for a lifetime of healthier interactions in all aspects of life. Displaying good manners, communicating effectively with others, being considerate of the feeling of others, and expressing personal needs are just some of the important components that make up this social skills toolkit.
There is no doubt, that naturally some children are more socially adept than others. These are the children you might see on the playground that can go up to other children and start a conversation, and for whom making friends comes easily. However, just like you might teach your child to drive, social skills can be learned. Taking turns with your children when playing games, role-playing scenarios, practicing concepts of personal space, encouraging your child to join a sports team to practice good sportsmanship, and asking your child their feelings during the day are just a couple of ways you can help your child to build on these skills.
The best thing I find about working with children with social skills difficulties is that we have so much fun doing it- maybe too much fun that the child does not even realise we are working towards the abovementioned goals. Here at Eat Speak Learn, two of the values we embrace are inclusive and fun. Our social skills group is a perfect example of one of the ways we live out these values. We run this group once a term with children of all ages and abilities. The aim of this group is to develop a child’s self-identity, improve basic self-awareness and self-esteem, develop problem-solving skills, learning how to cope with feelings and practicing working in a team. As therapists, we always have a ball running this group- look at some of the photos from previous groups as proof!
If you’re reading this and think that anything mentioned resonates with your child, we would love to hear from you. There’s nothing more fulfilling for me than helping a child to have the confidence to start those conversations and practice the skills that will allow them to make lifelong friends.