Social skills are the skills we use daily to interact and get along with others. They are the ways we talk, play and work together that facilitate communication and underpin our relationships.
Many of us can quickly ‘feel’ when an interaction hasn’t gone ‘quite right’. If there has been a breakdown in communication or we didn’t experience the exchange the way we expected to, there has usually been an omission or misuse of a social communication rule.
The great news is that social communication rules and principles are learned. Some of us learn them through watching others and getting a feel for successful interactions. Others of us, however, need a bit more guidance and coaching to learn how to engage and communicate effectively.
Did you know that speech pathologists work with children and adults to develop their social-pragmatic language? Pragmatics language refers to the way we use language to communicate; it’s knowing what to say, how to say it and when to say it. We teach and coach our clients to develop their language, understanding of various social situations and expectations, and how to develop what is commonly identified as their social skills.
Social skills develop across our lifespan. As we broaden our experience of communication contexts, interact with a wider variety of people and take on new social challenges, we learn to adjust how we interact and communicate. So what can we expect at various ages and stages of our development?
Why worry about social skills?
Social skills are essential for engaging appropriately with others. They affect our conversations and interactions with others during work, play, in the classroom and in social settings. Social skills are crucial for building all levels of relationships.
Children and adults who find it challenging to understand pragmatic language and navigate interactions may have difficulties:
Building relationships in the community, such as in sporting groups
Developing working relationships
Collaborating with others at work or school
Responding appropriately during interactions with family, friends and unfamiliar people
Developing an understanding and awareness of social expectations in given situations and mastering the appropriate social skills
They may be perceived as rude or inappropriate
How can I tell if my child has delayed pragmatic language and poor social skills?
Look for some of these key indicators:
Difficulty keeping to the topic in a conversation
Speaking before gaining your attention
Assuming that you already know the topic they are talking about and not giving you enough information
Standing too close when speaking
Challenges looking at the speaker
Talking too loud or too much without giving others time to speak
Don’t check for clarification if they haven’t understood
Challenges “reading” the tone of voice and body language of others
Difficulty understanding someone else’s point of view
Using language in a limited way, such as always giving information but not often asking questions
Forgetting to greet or say goodbye to others
Difficulty making and maintaining friendships
What skills should my child have, and what can I do to help?
Follow the links to find out how your child’s social skills compare to those of their peers and pick up some tips on what you can do to help them. New links released weekly.
We're here to help. If you have any concerns about the social skills of someone in your life, now is a great time to contact a speech pathologist for an assessment, advice and support.
At Newcastle Speech Pathology we provide effective, personalised therapy, because clear communication unlocks opportunities.