Speaking Up – Making & Keeping Friends
When we send our children off to school, we all have high hopes for what they are going to learn each day. Why is the sky blue? What is 10 x 2? But some of the most important growth and development can’t be learned from a textbook, or by taking tests. It’s what happens on the playground, in between classes in the halls, and during group projects. Learning how to not only make friends, but also to keep them comes easily to some, but can be more tricky for others.
As parents, we all want our children to develop meaningful friendships. If your child seems to be struggling to form relationships with his/her peers, social skills can be explicitly taught, practised, and carried over into day-to-day life. Elizabeth A. Sautter, author of Make Social Learning Stick, describes the important skill of being a social detective. This involves being able to look and think about the situation and the people in context. We can teach our children to use their eyes, ears, and brain to find clues towards what others might be thinking about. If we are successful social detectives, we can take the perspectives of other people and understand that they can have thoughts and feelings that are different than our own.
While at school, children are constantly asked to work together to accomplish a common goal. For some children, it is especially challenging to put aside their own ideas and not stick to their own agenda. Elizabeth A. Sautter describes this important skill as “following the group plan”. Being part of a group involves considering what others are thinking and what they might do based on interpreting their physical actions and the subtle meanings of their language. Sometimes, children need explicit guidance in order to establish ways to recognize the subtle social cues that may be easy for us to see and act on.
Explicit instruction in a group setting can make all the difference for children who are struggling to make and keep friends. When children are given the tools they need to be socially successful, and given the chance to practise these skills in a small group setting, their social communication skills are given the chance to blossom.
Fern Speech and Language Services has partnered with Learning to Connect to offer Connect to Play: a group for children with social communication difficulties to learn strategies for making and keeping friends.