Parents - Work on Social Skills at Home! | Everyday Speech

Parents – Work on Social Skills at Home!

By Brittany Lehane November 14, 2013

I am often asked what parents can do at home to help their child work on social skills.  Many parents don’t know what skills to work on or how to work on them. I think you’ll find that by adjusting your mindset a little, the process becomes a lot easier.

Social Scripts

One tool you can use is social scripts. Social scripts are short stories that help children learn expected behaviors in different situations. Social scripts are written with descriptive language and highlight how people commonly act and respond.  The script can focus on any new event going on in the child’s life.

So how do I set a social script up?  Let’s take a look:

  • Set clear expectations of how to behave and what will happen.
    • A birthday party script would tell the child where they are going (their friend’s house), who will be going with them (friends and parents), and what will happen there (you’ll play and then the birthday child will open presents, you’ll have cake).
  • Include direct instructions on how to communicate with others there.
    • At a birthday party, guests commonly wish the birthday boy or girl happy birthday.
  • Include examples of behaviors that other people expect the child to know.
    • At a birthday party these would include playing with the other children, singing happy birthday, and leaving when the party is over.
  • Include an example of not using a skill correctly
    • We can illustrate how improper behavior can negatively impact someone else’s feelings.  Ignoring the birthday child might make them upset.
  • Contrast the correct use of the skill
    • Associate correct behavior with turning those negative emotions into positives.  Saying happy birthday to the birthday child will make us both feel happy.

A few more quick tips:

  • Keep it short: about 5-10 concise sentences is all you need
  • Try to use simple language
  • Add in pictures if you can

So, what would a script look like? Here’s an example:

Kid's birthday party

An example of a picture you could use

I am going to a birthday party. My mom takes me to my friend Lisa’s house.  It is Lisa’s birthday. When I see Lisa, I don’t talk to her. This makes Lisa feel sad because it is her birthday. My mom tells me to say Happy Birthday to Lisa. Now Lisa is happy.  I will say Happy Birthday when it is someone’s birthday.


What do I work on?  Think about your child’s day

Having trouble figuring out what to write about? I recommend asking the child’s teacher or speech therapist what goals they are currently working on. Outside of that, try to walk through your child’s day.  We interact with so many people on a daily basis it seems like second nature to us, but to our children, every time they leave the house they have a new experience.  Got an appointment for a haircut coming up?  Or a trip to the grocery store? There are tons of interactions just in those two examples alone that you can help your child out with.


Be Consistent

When talking about social behaviors and skills stick to the same terminology across environments. You want to use the same words the teachers and therapists use during the school day. In my schools the teachers and therapists use the terms “expected” and “unexpected” to label behaviors as correct or incorrect. For example, when discussing the behavior of interrupting, we would ask “Is interrupting other people an expected or unexpected behavior?” These terms come from a social skills curriculum called Social Thinking which is well known and backed by research. Ask what terms your child’s teachers and therapists use. Consistency is the key to using their skills across the different environments your child inhabits such as home, school, and wherever else they may go.

Tackling Behaviors

Social scripts can also be used to work on specific behaviors. If you notice that your child has a really tough time sharing toys or sitting at the dinner table write up a script about that. Some examples I often use are the basic conversation skills of making eye contact, taking turns when talking, or asking others questions. An example below is one I’ve used to work on making eye contact during a conversation.

I am talking with my friends. They ask me “What is your favorite toy?” I know Tom is asking me because he is looking at me.  I look at the desk and do not answer. Now Tom is confused. He feels sad because I did not answer him. I look up and tell Tom my favorite toy is Nintendo DS. I look at Tom when I talk. Now Tom and I feel happy. I will try to look at other people when I talk to them.

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