Many parents recognise the importance of developing a sense of social awareness in their child, knowing well that the ability to communicate and express ourselves is an integral part of everyday life. Social awareness and social skills allow a child to express himself, participate in a group activity, or form relationships with his peers. For some children, not knowing how to react can sometimes result in responding inappropriately in a given scenario.
Consequently, this may cause him or her to be misunderstood, labelled as disruptive and get punished, or even get bullied, all of which may even cause the child to develop social anxiety, or a fear of social situations involving interactions.
Social interactions is a complex skill by nature, making it difficult for some children to develop it naturally on their own. Which is why starting off with home-based therapy is important to allow the behaviour therapist to develop the foundation skills, expand on play skills and assess the child’s level of readiness for social interactions. This will ensure that the child is able to fully benefit from attending a social group class.
Does your child have the necessary skills to complete a task independently?
The main objective for any child attending a social skills class should be to practise building various social skills such as turn-taking, conversational skills, emotional control, and problem-solving through different social activities. It is therefore crucial that a child is able to sit well, follow simple instructions and attend to the task at hand with minimal guidance. Children who are not yet able to do so should start with home-based therapy to allow the child to develop good sitting behaviours as well as the ability to comprehend simple instructions.
Additionally, the therapist can also work on increasing the attention span of a child while strengthening the child’s motor and cognitive skills through activities such as jigsaw puzzles and Lego blocks building activities. Through home-based sessions, a child will be able to develop the required skills in order to integrate and participate fully in a group setting.
Does your child have adequate play skills to engage others in play?
While play is a child’s most natural language, not all children engage in play the same way. Some children may prefer to play in a very specific manner, e.g. turning the wheels on a car and watching it spin or opening and closing doors on toys. Others may display very limited interest in certain toys e.g. trains. While it is not unusual for children to enjoy a certain aspect of the toy, having a limited range of play can restrict a child’s development of more complex fine and gross motor skills, as well as hamper the child’s social and language development. In such situations, home-based therapy should be recommended first to allow the therapist to help the child strengthen basic play skills such as joint attention and sharing of toys, to developing more appropriate play skills through exploratory play and imitating the therapist in play.
Gradually, the child should be able to engage in more complex forms of play such as constructive play (where a child is building or creating), pretend play or imaginative play, and functional play (where a child can play appropriately with toy cars or toy phones). Home-based sessions are thus important in helping a child develop a range of play skills which the child can then tap on to build relationships or engage in problem solving with his or her peers.
Is your child ready for social interactions?
Being around other children can be intimidating for your child if he or she is not ready to interact with them, especially if your child tends to be shy around other kids. Additionally, not knowing how to respond to social interactions may make it all the more overwhelming for a child to be in a group and cause the child to further withdraw from social settings.
Home-based therapy is therefore a much preferred option to start off with as it gives the child an opportunity to engage the therapist in his or her natural way of playing, and allows the therapist to observe the child in play and have a better understanding of the child’s level of social awareness and social skills.
At the same time, the therapist can assess the root cause for the child’s lack of interest to interact, whether the child is generally not aware of people in the immediate environment, or just lacking the social skills needed to interact with other children. Similarly, a child who lacks social skills often also lack confidence in socialising with his or her peers.
Whether the child is more shy or hyperactive by nature, identifying the root cause will allow the therapist to focus on increasing social awareness in general, or help increase the required social skills and practice with the child until the child is able to generalise them to a group setting with other children.
Attending social skills class is tremendously beneficial for kids to become more confident in their social interactions. However, home-based sessions are essential in ensuring that a child is socially and emotionally ready to be integrated into a group setting.
Written by: Marjorie Tay