What Are Social Skills?

You may have heard the term “social skills” used by a therapist, clinician or teacher. But have you wondered what is meant by the term, why are they important and how they can be developed?

Let’s break down everything you need to know about social skills.

What are social skills?

The term “social skills” refers to the various abilities used to interact or communicate with other people. From family and friends to general society, these skills are used in all aspects of human interaction. In social and community situations, there are a host of explicit and implied rules about how to interact and how to communicate with others.

There are many different types of social skills and forms of their expression, including both verbal and non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, body language, gestures and general actions.

Adults and children with a diagnosis of a disorder, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), may struggle to develop or display social skills. This isn’t always the case however; You can read more about the 10 myths of ASD here.

One is considered to have well developed social skills if they have a strong understanding of the ‘rules’ and expectations of social interaction.

Why are these skills important?

There are many reasons why social skills are important for flourishing in the world.

  • They foster more positive experiences and interactions.
  • They allow for the development and sustaining of friendships.
  • They help to make social interactions smooth.
  • They enable better handling and resolving of conflicts.
  • They aid in the development of empathy, understanding and caring for others.

How do you know if your child is struggling with social skills?

Our allied health clinicians are trained and experienced professionals. They work to identify, assess and diagnose for a range of disorders that may indicate under-developed social skills.

A child experiencing difficulties may exhibit one or more of the following signs:

  1. Inconsistent/fleeting eye contact or fixed staring.
  2. Inability or struggle with reading facial or non-verbal cues and different tones of voice.
  3. A lack of politeness when speaking, including frequent interrupting, prolonged speaking without proper engagement, not talking in turns or not beginning/ending conversations appropriately.
  4. Frequently making irrelevant or inappropriate comments during a conversation.
  5. Talking at speed or with a tone, rhythm or intonation that is unusual.
  6. Unusual focus on a specific and narrow subject even when it’s not the topic of discussion.
  7. An unusual level of disinterest in listening to others or participating in a conversation.
  8. Difficult understanding jokes, sarcasm, figurative speech, idioms and other statements that may not be literal.
  9. A significant lack of imagination, empathy, remorse or interest in others.
  10. Struggling to adapt behaviour in different situations.
  11. Frequent disclosing of personal or private information even when asked not to.
  12. Inappropriate response when experiencing anger, disappointment, stress, anxiety or failure.
  13. Struggling to change behaviour even when asked.

Related Difficulties

Children (and adults) experiencing difficulties with social skills may also be experiencing problems in other areas such as:

Building blocks of social skills: attention, concentration, language comprehension, communication, expression, play skills, self-regulation, executive functioning, friendships and social interaction
Building Blocks of Social Skills
  • Sensory processing
  • Academic and school work
  • Appropriate behaviour
  • Language comprehension
  • Language expression
  • Articulation and fluency
  • Emotional regulation
  • Attention levels
  • Executive and cognitive functioning

Long term difficulties

Children who struggle with social environments or have underdeveloped social skills can experience effects over the long term.

It can be difficult to make and maintain friendships, communicate effectively, contribute appropriately in social settings, understand jokes and figures of speech, and even cope with failure or disappointment.

How can you improve one’s skills?

There are a few ways in which children (in particular) can learn, develop and improve their social skills.

(1) Play

Engaging in play allows children opportunity to take turns with others, engage in shared interests, cooperate, interact and foster joint attention.

(2) Emotional development

A part of developing social/emotional skills is helping children to understand their own emotions, recognise the signs of different emotions being experienced by others, and display their feelings in a socially appropriate way.

Another part of emotional development is also cultivating an understanding of empathy and how other people might feel in different situations or experiences.

(3) Social stories

Social stories are useful learning tools to help communicate ideas that one might find a bit difficult to grasp and/or understand. Social stories are constructed carefully to aid children in understanding a variety of social situations and help them develop the tools for engaging in a socially appropriate response.

(4) Therapy and social groups

Therapy with an experienced and trained allied health clinician can focus on helping children (and adults) develop necessary and important social skills in a supportive environment. There are a variety of clinical and evidence-based strategies used in therapy.

Social skills groups are another way in which individuals struggling to maintain positive relationships or understand appropriate interaction can develop their skills and grow in their independence in social functioning.

Activities you can engage in at home

You can engage in several different and simply activities at home to help promote and develop social skills with your child. Have a look at the following suggestions for ideas:

  • Play board games or card games.
  • Make and wear eye masks.
  • Sing songs together.
  • Engage in role play scenarios.
  • Create posters and other visuals about important rules.
  • Choose an object and stimulate a conversation by passing it back and forth to take turns talking.

Understanding social skills therapy

Therapy can be helpful for individuals experiencing social skills difficulties or struggling in a related area.

Structured individual or group therapy sessions can help children develop the skills to play with others, engage in conversation, or make friendships at school.

Using evidence-based strategies, therapists can help to improve inappropriate behaviour between clients and a range of individuals in their life.

There are a range of clinicians who can provide invaluable therapy, including speech therapists, occupational therapists and psychologists. In some cases, you may require a multidisciplinary approach.

How to book your child in for therapy?

It’s easy to ensure your child or anyone else receives the right therapy and social skills assistance they need and deserve.

Just contact the One Central Health team to find out more or book an appointment with one of our experienced and professional clinicians.

Share this article

We’re here to support you. Always.

Want to book an appointment or find out more?
Contact us online or give us a call today!