Sunday, December 19, 2010

Social Skills Training - Part 1

Social competence is critical for a child's development. Many kids particular those with challenging behaviors and who may also have a diagnosis have deficits in social skills. The research into the effectiveness of Social Skills training SST has showed not encouraging results for long term benefits and generalization to real life contexts.

Social competence is the ability to obtain successful outcomes from social interactions with others. It reflects the child's ability to integrate behavioral, cognitive and emotional skills in order to adapt flexibly to various social contexts and demands.

Social Skills include a series of non-verbal responses such as appropriate use of eye contact, posture, social distance, use of gesture and facial expressions and verbal responses such as tone, rate and volume of speech, clarity of speech , influence of emotions – anger, fear, happiness, etc conveyed which will influence how others will respond. Children need conversation skills, how to initiate conversations at the appropriate moment , selecting relevant topics for conversation, asking questions, requesting help, offering assistance and invitations, asking to join in etc .

Here is a list of interventions used to train social skills including CPS –collaborative problem solving.

Traditionally SST has focused on teaching behavioral aspects of social responding using direct instruction and role play. Other interventions such as interpersonal problem solving skills training, cognitive restructuring , training in social perception and perspective taking, self regulation skills, emotional regulation skills and modifying environmental contingencies are now being used in association with SST.

A - direct instruction, discussion and modeling skills providing information of how and why the skills are performed , breaking down skills into small steps.

B- Behavioral rehearsal, role play and practice - This is important for skill acquisition and improvement and opportunities should be found for children to practice their skills in various natural settings – in the home , school and at friends

Feedback , Encouragement of reinforcement.

Feedback helps children to make improvements and get help when they are having difficulties. When done in a constructive way and encouraging way children learn to reflect on how their actions affect others , self evaluate and experience pride in their achievements. This is considered better than verbal praise and tangible reinforcers.

Social Perception skills training teaches children to monitor and identify cues relating to their own emotions , feelings and perspectives and those of others with whom they are interacting and understanding the social context and rules. This helps them identify social problems and adapt to the situation.

Interpersonal problem solving skills training – children are taught to identify problems, think of alternative solutions, predict the consequences of each solution, and then select the most appropriate solution.

Self-instructional and self regulation training helps children use self talk and internal dialog to monitor thinking and guide their behavior and can be used in training of social problem solving steps.

Emotion regulation skills help the child to manage his emotional response to frustration and think rationally and deal with irritability or anxiety.

Cognitive therapy to help children with distorted thinking.

Contingency management – a behaviorist approach using rewards and consequences to encourage pro-social behavior. This type of intervention is not recommended by non-behaviorists who show that this approach teaches kids only to think of themselves.

Collaborative problem solving – CPS

Cps teaches various lacking cognitive skills like executive functions, language processing skills, emotional regulation skills, social skills and cognitive flexibility when teachers and parents collaborate with children to solve real problems in a mutually satisfactory way. Skills need to taught in the context of the child's concerns and unsolved problems and not in a top-down manner.


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