Improving Special Needs Children’s Social Skills and Communication

Social and communication skills are vital for everyone to learn as they grow, but such skills can be especially challenging to master for children and adults with special needs. By giving them a helping hand, they will make relational connections with lessening difficulty and meet others with the same interests and opinions as themselves.

Teaching Social Communication

The ability to look people in the eye is key to making them feel they are being paid attention to and heard. If eye contact is difficult for the special needs child, turn it into a fun game; learning to hold a gaze even for a short time will be helpful in building social skills. Trouble with facial expressions and interpreting the emotions that come from them can present a challenge to knowing what other people are feeling. Special needs kids can learn to read facial expressions by playing guessing games to cue a particular emotion; for example, drawing or acting out facial expressions like sadness, happiness, anger, and fear gives them practice in recognizing emotions and responding appropriately.

Idioms can present a challenge as well because the words have no logical meaning and must be memorized. Teaching the special needs child such phrases and other popular slang helps them understand what is being communicated. Learning to keep conversations going on a given topic is also important in communicating with others. This can be accomplished by practicing basic scripted conversations to make special needs kids more familiar and comfortable in conversing smoothly. Storytelling, rehearsing and roleplay of various real-life situations (stores, restaurant, classrooms, etc.), telling jokes, or video-taping and replaying/reviewing practiced conversations all help in the transition to daily life.

Real-world Interaction

Making friends takes time and practice for everyone, especially those with special needs. With encouragement and reinforcement, special needs kids can conquer social skills by dividing up interactions into simpler, smaller “steps.” They will learn that asking questions and expressing curiosity shows interest in the other person’s opinions. They shouldn’t be pushed too far or too long all at once, but by adding minutes incrementally to each subsequent exposure to social situations, special needs kids can ease into and tolerate (or even enjoy!) spending time with others.

Buddy up with children of similar interests when visiting the special needs child’s favorite museum, park, or play place or when planning a fun day of shared activities at home. Set small goals when teaching them how to take turns and be kind to others. “Parallel play” is a suggested way for special needs kids to interact alongside other children. Set small goals for them to accomplish and build their confidence.

Serving the Long Island area, Be the Best Sport exists to help special needs kids of all ages and abilities learn to communicate and interact with others while having fun. We offer various recreational sports and physical activities to build mental and motor function as well as friendship with peers and staff members. We want our athletes to gain the confidence, physical strength, and social skills they’ll need to accomplish their goals in the future.