Socialisation Skills & Social Communication (Pragmatics)
Socialisation skills are some of the most difficult skills we develop. We use socialisation skills every day to interact and communicate with others. Socialisation Skills include:
– verbal communication, such as sound and speech
– nonverbal communication such as gesture, facial expression, and body language.
A person has strong social skills if they have the knowledge of how to behave in various social situations and understand both written and implied rules when communicating with others.
Social communication or pragmatics refers to the way in which children use language within social situations and their ability to use language, adapt language and make and understand inference:
Social communication (pragmatics) is important in order to be able to build social relationships with other people. It is also important academically, as many curriculum-based activities rely on working in groups and communication between peers.
Children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Asperger’s can have difficulties with aspects of socialisation skills. Some children with Sensory Processing Disorders can also have difficulties with socialisation skills when their sensory systems are still immature.
Socialisation skills are vital in enabling an individual to carry out day to day tasks in the modern world by making and maintaining positive interactions with others. Many of these skills are vital when making and sustaining friendships.
Social interactions are variable and can change suddenly and an individual needs to be able to recognise and implement appropriate strategies. It is important for individuals to have empathy (seeing the other person’s point of view and acknowledging their feelings) and respond appropriately. It is also important to have strategies such as conflict resolution when difficulties in interactions arise.
When children have difficulties with social skills, they might also have difficulties with:
- Making new friends.
- Maintaining friendships with peers.
- Communicating effectively with unfamiliar individuals during situations including asking for assistance in a shop, asking for directions if they are lost and negotiating with someone with whom they have had a disagreement.
- Reading/understanding social situations.
- Understanding jokes and figurative language during interactions with others, when watching television shows and movies, and reading books.
- Coping with failure.
Children may also have difficulties with:
- Sensory processing: The child may have trouble attending or focusing and have difficulty interpreting information they receive from the environment.
- Self-regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change one’s emotion, behaviour, attention, and activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable manner.
- Behaviour: The child’s actions, usually in relation to their environment (e.g. a child may engage in behaviour, such as refusing to go to social events, including birthday parties, or engage in inappropriate behaviour, such as tugging on a peer’s hair or yelling at someone to get their attention).
- Completing academic work (e.g. the child may misinterpret verbal or written instructions for tasks and/or struggle with imaginative writing).
- Receptive (understanding) language: Comprehension of language.
- Expressive (using) language: The use of language through speech, sign, or alternative forms of communication to communicate wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.
- Articulation: Clarity of speech sounds and spoken language.
- Fluency: The smoothness or flow with which sounds, syllables, words and phrases are produced when talking.
- Modulating their Voice: The sound that we hear when someone talks which is unique to each person; regulation: ‘inside voice’ vs ‘outside voice.
- Understanding Tone: Difficulty in interpreting vocal modulations by others.
- Executive functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.
Therapeutic intervention to help a child with social skills difficulties is important to:
- Help a child to engage appropriately with others during play, conversation and in interactions.
- Help a child to develop friendships at school and when accessing out of school activities (e.g. playing sport, attending a birthday party).
- Help a child maintain friendships with peers.
- Help a child to behave appropriately during interactions with familiar people (e.g. parents, siblings, teachers, family friends) and unfamiliar individuals.
- Assist a child in developing their awareness of what is socially acceptable and to develop specific social skills (e.g. taking turns in a conversation, using appropriate eye contact, verbal reasoning, understanding figurative language).
- Develop appropriate social stories to help teach the child about how to respond in specific social situations.
- Some children require explicit teaching about how to interact and communicate with others as these skills do not come naturally to them.
Therapeutic intervention can be with a Speech & Language therapist or a Clinical Psychologist, and are facilitated during other therapy sessions, such as Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy.