Social Skills

I saw a child with special needs today. The 6 year-old boy displayed good retention of vocabulary and concepts taught but he had difficulties in understanding questions and following commands. He is good in memorizing concepts taught in school ergo he is doing well academically. When I met him for the first time, he was not engaging in conversations, he was just expressing his preferences and would comment on things that would catch his attention. The boy has been receiving individualized intervention everyday. He was an only child so he was interacting with adults most of the time.

I have also encountered neurotypical kids who do not engage in conversations anymore. They excel in academics but seem to have lost interest in establishing meaningful relationships with siblings and friends. I wonder if grades were more important for them and their parents because when I meet them, I certainly do not see the advantage of getting As when kids cannot even look me in the eye when I ask questions and they have difficulties in sustaining conversations. What happened to developing our children’s social skills?

As a therapist, I know the child with special needs will receive intervention to help him engage in meaningful conversations. What about our neurotypical kids?

As a parent, I have to make conscious effort to expose my child to varied situations to help him adapt. Now that he is just two years old, these learning situations have to be “set-up” so he will learn the ropes of communicating with adults, children older or younger than him, people with authority, etc. What I would like him to learn is the importance of interacting with people and use his toys and gadgets as merely TOOLS.

In the end, I have always believed that we have to value people and relationships. We cannot show how we value people if we do not communicate our thoughts and feelings. Old-fashioned as it may seem, engaging children in conversations during meals, while playing and before bedtime develops social language skills that they will never get from gadgets.

Different for Different People

One of the difficult questions usually posed by parents when commencing therapy is when will their child talk, walk or be regulated enough in varied situations. After practicing the SLP profession for more than 2 decades, I cannot answer this question because each child has his or her own pace. Some are more receptive to therapy than others. Varied factors come into play and one pressing factor is the severity of the problem or degree of delay.

Specialists are backed with years of study and training.

To our dear parents, your OT, PT, SPED and SLP professionals have studied and have been trained for 4 to 5 years to be able to assess and manage clients with different types of disorders or delays. Some of us even specialized in specific therapeutic approaches, just to make sure that we are able to match our program with our client’s current needs.

My analogy is simple, do you go to a plumber when your car breaks down? Professionals handling your child have their own specialization, be cautious when somebody says he or she is a plumber/mechanic/electrician/carpenter/barber rolled into one.
Dear parents, ask for credentials. It is your right to do so.

I believe that when clients/parents are more informed, they will also make informed decisions. In this day and age of fake products and professionals, we have to be more vigilant.