Social Thinking: Improving Social Skills to Enhance Socio-Emotional Health

What is social thinking?

Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people. For successful social interactions, it is important that the individual take in and process information embedded in both verbal and non-verbal cues and process how to effectively respond based on the context and topic of presented material. Joint attention, knowledge of expectations regarding behavior, and mental flexibility are all key components for appropriate social relationships.

What happens when social skills are impaired?

When a child has difficulty with focus, understanding the context of the environment around them, and lacks knowledge of how their behaviors make others feel, social thinking may be impaired. Social skills deficits can have profound effects on your child’s academic performance, feelings about self, ability to connect with others, and ability to achieve desired wants and needs.

How can children learn social skills?

Breaking down the components of the social uses of language can help children navigate their social environments and various contexts. For example, children talk differently to their siblings than they would talk to peers at school and might present their anger at mom differently than they would present to their classroom teacher. To enhance the social skills, pragmatic language and engagement in expected behaviors can be targeted by both social workers and speech-language pathologists. For pragmatic language development, the speech pathologist works towards child comprehension of the context and function of a message and how to use language in social situations, such as turn taking, staying on topic, and how to use verbal and non-verbal signals. In terms of enhancing social relationships, the social worker aids the child in understanding the context of their environment and provides education for impulse control, how to evaluate potential outcomes to enhance positive choice-making, and how various behaviors impact individuals around them.

For additional tips on how to improve a child’s social functioning, please refer to 5 Tips for Improving Your Child’s Language and Social Skills.  For more information on our mental health services, click here.

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