Social Skills are important for everybody to be successful with interactions in groups and other individuals. Many articles and suggestions have been created to help children develop these important skills. Included here are some tips and strategies to try when a child is struggling with peers or within the classroom. One strategy that works exceptionally well in a wide variety of settings and with most children (and adults) is using visual supports. Many adults create lists of tasks that need to be completed or items to purchase; think about your calendar or “visual supports” in your cell phone. We wouldn’t be giving our children cell phones, but we can provide those same visual supports in pictures for them. The adult can draw stick figures to represent what is happening during different times during the day, especially the times that are challenging. Show your drawings to the child and talk about each step and how much fun it is going to be (including those not so fun activities). The child will then begin to understand what is happening and anticipate each activity.
Cognitive Skills for young children involve working on and improving learning skills such as attention, remembering and problem solving. We can help our children by helping them think through activities they are doing and helping them figure them out rather than automatically doing it for them or telling them how to do it. For example if they are playing with blocks and they keep falling over, ask them open ended questions about what else they could do so it doesn’t fall over rather than automatically fixing the stack.
Adaptive Skills are those skills children need to do each day; sometimes they are called “activities of daily living”. Examples include bedtime, dressing, toileting, hygiene, and eating. One strategy is to have set routines: it sounds simple, but providing your child with a step-by-step routine for difficult activities will help them know what is expected of them and what they need to do in order to complete the task.
Motor Skills provide the foundation for moving and engaging in everyday life; strong muscles provide support for standing, walking, writing, running and jumping. In the past children played outside, climbed on everything, dug in the dirt and ran around which provided many opportunities for muscle development. Today, we need to create opportunities for these activities. To develop the small muscles in the hands, in the past children used their hands for a variety of activities, dressing dolls with those tiny buttons, played with small blocks, cut old magazines or paper. We can provide activities to intentionally build these muscles.
Communication Skills is important for our children so they can share their thoughts and ideas with those around them and to be able to express their wants and needs in an appropriate way.