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.