So How Do I Help My Child?
-Help your child by modeling correct communication behaviors. Often children who struggle with social language skills need to be told directly the correct way to communicate or act in a given situation.
-Role play out various situations with your child, such as, asking a friend over to play, or ordering at a restaurant. Practicing phone conversations is great too!
-Keep in mind that some children with social language difficulties often see things as black or white. They need to be taught the "grey" areas. For example, we teach children from a young age that, "you never tell a lie". However, there are often circumstances when blurting out your true feelings is rude and hurtful. For example, when a friend asks if you like his new shirt he is wearing, but you don't like it, what do you do? Most of us would just let him know that we like his shirt, so that we don't hurt his feelings. A child that doesn't have this natural understanding of social rules, might just blurt out, "I don't like it. It's ugly". These children need to be directly taught the exceptions to the rules.
-Flexibility: My dad sent my off to college with a saying he had posted up at his office, "Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be BENT out of shape". I've thought of that saying often over the years. Teaching flexibility can be tricky.
-Prepare your child for the possibility that something he/she is looking forward to might not work out. "I know you are looking forward to going to the toy store this afternoon, but if your dad has to go into work, then we won't be able to go. We will pick another time to go, and we can put it on the calendar".
-Conversation skills: Practice having your child practice these main skills:
1. Initiating a conversation, or saying something like, "Hi, how are you?".
2. Maintaining a conversation and topic maintenance, such as keeping the conversation/talking going over several turns.
3. Turn taking - letting his/her conversation partner have equal time to talk and contribute to the conversation/talking time.
4. Ending a conversation - such as "it was nice talking to you". Keep in mind what is age appropriate. Most young elementary students won't formally end a conversation.
-Perspective taking: Work with your child on seeing the importance of showing interest in what others like.