“How are you?”
“I am good. How are you?”
“I’m great! Thanks for asking”
It seems like a very simple conversation, but it may not always be for our kids. Social skills are difficult enough to understand and putting them into practice while having a conversation can be that much harder. Conversations involve a number of skills including understanding social cues and knowing acceptable replies.
Often times, our children struggle with the basics of social behaviors. That can translate into having trouble with appropriate conversation skills and making friends. Just one small conversation has many unspoken rules. For example:
- Initiating and responding to somebody’s speech.
- Understanding that speech is directed at you based on their body position.
- Making eye contact.
- Theory of Mind: understanding that a person can feel differently than you. This can prompt a reply question.
A conversation may fail if something goes wrong during any of the steps above. It could even be possible that the child has no interest in speaking to you at all.
There are many ways we can help our clients better understand conversations and how to successfully have them.
Here are a few strategies you can try out at home!
This method is great because it incorporates all of the skills needed for conversation, without any of the consequences for mishaps. Role playing gives your child the chance to practice without feeling embarrassed or awkward if they say the wrong thing. It is versatile enough to work on a variety of social interaction situations. This will prepare your child for when they encounter them in their natural environment.
It is important when working on role playing that all feedback and corrections are given kindly and concisely. We want your child to feel comfortable enough to practice their skills in many scenarios.
We recommend social stories to help your child prepare for a variety of life events including transitions, new experiences, and learning routines. They also are very helpful for modeling conversational skills. Social stories remove your child from the equation and has them read through examples of typical conversations.
Reading and rereading social stories can help your child anticipate how conversations should go. They also help with expressing different point of views. This helps with the Theory of Mind aspect of conversations.
Practicing conversational skills at home is the best thing you can do! One method is to model conversations with someone else at home and then have your child try to replicate it with that same person. Make sure to engage in any naturally occurring situation for conversation with your child when possible. A great way to keep your child engaged is to talk about subjects that they enjoy such as toys, movies, or any other interests they may have. Having joyful conversations, even the most simple ones, can encourage your child to speak in other situations as well. So give it a try!
This is not an overnight skill and takes many other smaller skills to master. Work with your BCBA on helping your child engage in more conversations with you!