Social communication skills are some of the most valuable skills we can teach our students. Did you know children with verbal and nonverbal learning disabilities often struggle with pragmatic skills? This is because social skills rely on good communication skills!
Not only do we communicate verbally, but through nonverbal communication. Both are equally important to be able to have effective interactions with others. Students may have difficulty with one or both of these while expressing or comprehending language. It is noted that pragmatic language impairment occurs in about 7.5% of children and affects more boys than girls by a ratio of 2.6:1.0 (Ketelaars, Cuperus, van Daal, Jansonius, & Verhoeven, 2009). Social communication disorder can have negative life-long effects on developing relationships, as well as success in school and the workplace. These unsaid rules we use while interacting with others are critical life skills we need to teach!
Listed below are fundamental social communication skills that all students should have a basis to be able to succeed in school and the community.
• INITIATING CONVERSATIONS: Being able to greet others with appropriate verbal and nonverbal language (facial expressions, gestures). In addition, knowing when it is appropriate versus inappropriate to initiate a conversation with someone and navigate more advanced situations, such as joining a group conversation.
• TOPIC MAINTENANCE: Being able to stay on topic, as well as knowing how and when it is appropriate to change topics. This includes listening skills and attention skills.
• ASKING & ANSWERING QUESTIONS: Being able to answer and ask questions appropriately, maintain the conversation, take turns, keep the pace of the conversation, and ask questions to clarify.
• NONVERBAL ASPECTS OF LANGUAGE: Being able to have appropriate body language – facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, body proximity, tone of voice, etc. Being able to use appropriate body language and likewise interpret it from others. A significant portion of communication relies on nonverbal communication.
• PROBLEM-SOLVING: Being able to identify a problem and find a solution, compromise, and negotiate.
• EMPATHY: Being able to feel what another person feels.
• PERSPECTIVE TAKING: Being able to take the point of view of someone else. This is critical in knowing you are giving enough information and context for someone to comprehend what you are telling them.
• APOLOGIZING: Being able to understand the importance of apologizing, then knowing when you should and how.
• SPONTANEOUSLY SEEKING ASSISTANCE: Being able to know when they need help, identify who to ask, and then ask appropriately depending on the situation.
• FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE & SARCASM: Being able to identify and comprehend idioms, similes, metaphors, jokes, and sarcasm. These aspects of language can completely change the meaning.
You may be interested in these social skills resources I designed to intentionally build these aspects of pragmatic language: