Monday, April 14, 2008

Social Skills: Before You Start

Many kids are going through some form of social skills training. For kids on the autistic spectrum, with Asperger’s syndrome, those with attention deficit issues and others who just struggle with reading social signals, training in the specifics can be extremely helpful. But, before you send you child to a social skills group, and before you work with your child on your own, it’s important to consider the reasons behind the current behaviors.

For many years, before I was a Psychotherapist, I was a Semiconductor Quality Engineer. This sounds very different than a therapist and in many ways it is. But, some truths are universal, and they hold true in engineering and in human behavior. I’ve seen in both cases is that there’s a reason things happen the way they do. For kids who are struggling with social skills, there is a reason. Usually, it’s because it’s really uncomfortable to do things in the traditional way. Eye contact feels too close. Personal space doesn’t feel right. Acting like neurotypicals do, feels just like that, acting.

In order for a new social skill to be useful, it must feel natural. The first step in any new social skill is to add in a calming step. This might be a pause, a breath, a calming thought. Then step forward, step back, say hello, look that person in in eye. It’s going to be a lot easier to feel natural if your child is relaxed first.

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