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Social Skills – Maintaining Well Being alongside Skill Development

Last week we looked at the meaning of Social Skills, in the context of learning and development, and we shared with you the idea that social skills are a set of personal skills that enable social communication and interaction.

To live in the world that we do – to be able to get a job, to be able to interact with others in order to have personal needs met, and to be able to function independently in the world – it’s handy to understand certain social skills.

So the question then becomes – how do we balance supporting a person in learning new skills whilst ensuring they remain true to who they are (and are able to develop skills in ways that best suit their own personal needs and wants)?

Last week’s post also touched on the idea that regardless of any skills that are being learned, a person’s mental health and well being should always come first. We don’t all socialise in the same way and, regardless of ability, we don’t all have the same needs and desires to participate in the social world in the way that others do.

And it’s with this in mind that we suggest the following guidelines for anyone who is working alongside a person learning about social skills:

  • Always work within the autism friendly model of learning – work with a person’s strengths, needs and interests (we will share more on our autism friendly model next week).
  • Understand that not all ways of social interaction work for everyone and that we need to find ways to work outside the norm when the standard interactions don’t match a person’s needs and desires.
  • ‘Doing well’ does not always mean ‘being well’. Always look for signs of ‘being well’ when looking at how a person manages within a social environment. ‘Doing well’ might indicate that a person is simply coping, but we need to aim for thriving rather than just surviving. ‘Being well’ should be the goal. And if that means doing things differently to the norm, that is okay.
  • Skills develop over time, and not everyone works to the same time frame. Allow thinking space for processing and time for adjusting to anything new.

When you blend the ideas of skill development and ‘maintaining well being’ together, then social skill learning becomes an opportunity for personal development rather than an intervention – and that’s when a person is more likely to feel success.

Written by Elissa Plumridge

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