Social skills are a set of personal skills that enable social communication and interaction – for some, they are instinctive and can be learnt and adapted from past experiences to everyday new social situations.
For others who experience challenges in social communication, social skills are not so automatic nor do they come naturally. For someone who wants to interact but not quite sure how to, then social skills can be taught (learnt) and practised.
Social Skills learning is all about helping someone:
– to understand social interactions and their own (and other people’s) responses to the world.
– to apply the understanding of these interactions and responses, to achieve personal goals (such as forming friendships or getting along with others).
Social interactions (and social environments in general) can be difficult for many people on the spectrum. These difficulties can be experienced regularly and can lead to misunderstanding, confusion and the sense of isolation in many social situations. To help them make sense of social interactions and the world around them, learning social skills can provide them with what is needed to help feel connected.
A very important point to remember is to be mindful that social skills learning is NOT about forcing someone to socialise or to put a group of people together to learn how to be friends – it is to equip them with skills that they want in order to initiate interaction or sustain friendships and relationships that mean something to them.
One of the primary goals for social skills learning should be to enhance self-worth and self-esteem. We need to support and provide encouragement for those wanting to ‘be social’ whilst making sure that the teaching moves at the learner’s pace.
When supporting social skills learning, we celebrate success along the way when developing new skills but always remembering that the fostering of wellbeing should be first and foremost.
Written by Sherri Cincotta