This question is answered by our Speech Pathologist Alexandra Crea.
Social skills are an area of difficulty that can be supported by an Occupational Therapist, a Psychologist, or of course, a Speech Pathologist. There is some overlap between each profession’s Social Skills therapy, however they each tend to come from a different perspective and might use a different approach. Here is some insight into a Speech Pathologist’s specific approach to social skills.
Speech Pathologists focus on supporting your child’s use and understanding of Social Communication. Social Communication encompasses nonverbal communication, theory of mind, and social context.
Nonverbal communication is an umbrella term used to describe facial expression, body language, gesture, and tone of voice. We use nonverbal communication all the time, normally unconsciously. Speech Pathologists work with children to help them identify nonverbal communication in others and interpret what it means. This might be spotting when someone wants to join in your play, or when someone is bored of the conversation topic! Speech Pathologists also support children in understanding that their own nonverbal communication sends a message to others, even when they are not intending to do so. We support children in being aware of the type of nonverbal communication that sends the message that you don’t want to speak to anyone, or clues that show others that you’re really interested in something happening outside, rather than in what your teacher is saying!
Theory of mind is the ability to understand another’s point of view or perspective. It helps us to understand that everyone has different likes and dislikes, needs, and wants. Advanced theory of mind is understanding that everyone has their own experiences and beliefs that shape the way they perceive things. Without theory of mind, it is extremely challenging for children to understand other’s reactions or behaviours. It is also an imperative part of being able to show empathy, which is a cornerstone of forming meaningful relationships.
Social context is often the unspoken information that children have to infer. It is the ‘fill-in-the gaps’ that can be really difficult for adults and children alike, and requires children to be detectives. Speech Pathologists can help children interpret scenes by putting all the clues together.
Social communication relies on being able to integrate nonverbal communication, social context, theory of mind, and receptive and expressive language all together! It is complex and multifaceted, and incredibly transient meaning each interaction and situation has a new set of rules. Social skills and social communication can be supported in individual therapy, in small groups or dyads, or during our School Holiday Programs!