Good social interaction requires a variety of skills and abilities. At Leaps and Bounds, both occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists facilitate social skill development. Occupational therapists address social skills since it is part of a child’s job (his “occupation”). At Leaps and Bounds, occupational therapists will assess a child to determine if his difficulty with social skills is a result of inefficient sensory processing.
Sensory processing can impact social skill development in a variety of ways. If a child lacks good body awareness and a good sense of self, then it will be difficult for him to initiate interactions, understand spatial boundaries and to use appropriate skills to interact. If a child does not have good self awareness, he will not understand what is appropriate to talk about and what activities are socially appropriate.
Other children may have difficulty with social skills if they have sensitivities to sensory stimulation (a sensory avoider). If a child dislikes certain sights, sounds, and/or touch, then he may be shy, withdrawn, and hesitant to interact. He may also become aggressive with peers because he is overreacting to the sensory stimuli. These behaviors can all be considered a “Fight, Flight, Fright” nervous system response (please refer to behavior section for more information).
Speech and Language Pathologists address social pragmatics, which is the understanding and use of language for social situations. These skills include both verbal and non-verbal communication, turn-taking, initiating, maintaining, and terminating a topic. These are all skills needed for social language and forming friendships.
At Leaps and Bounds, both occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists address concerns with social skills. All therapists use sensory-based strategies to facilitate attention and body awareness. This enhances a child’s ability to appropriately engage in peer relationships and make friends.