REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S EXPERT PANEL ON AUGUST 13, 2022
Children with learning disabilities face many difficulties in not just their academics, but also in their social environment. Learning difficulties have a great effect on the child’s sense of self and confidence and often make them feel inferior. These effects stretch to aspects beyond academics, like family, peer groups, and society. It is likely that children feel complex from their other peers.
Starting conversations, reaching out, and making decisions can seem like a perplexing task if there is a social deficit along with a learning deficit. For children to lead a fruitful and wholesome life, it is very important that they have enough positive social support. This makes the enhancement of their social skills as important as their general academic growth.
Intervention programs for the same become a must in such situations. Social skill interventions for children with learning disabilities will help children interact more, create bonds, build confidence and have a healthy sense of themself.
Social challenges for LD: What does the research say?
Social skills are skills we utilize to communicate and interact with others. They are the key to building good relationships. Much research has been carried out on social skills intervention for learning disorders. When the child’s social skills are compromised, the child misses out on many opportunities.
Research has found that children with learning disabilities do have social deficits and appear to be less active during the communication process among peers. In addition to that, they are less likely to adapt to the communication style of others.
Some other features that were found were the inability to modify communication when giving reactions to a different age group and not using the verbal responses of others to adjust what they are going to say. They also seem less able than their peers to interpret social situations.
Some researchers have also observed that students with learning disabilities may also face trouble recognizing personal space and appropriate levels of physical contact. They may struggle with reading nonverbal cues and engaging in social interactions.
These deficits create a significant need to incorporate social skills intervention programs for those with learning disabilities.
What are some social skill interventions for individuals with LD?
Interventions are programs or resolutions built to solve a specific problem. They target particular issues and aim to improve the same. To enhance the social skills of those with learning disabilities, certain intervention programs need to be developed with the purpose of improving those certain deficits in social skills that exist. Some of these are listed below.
1. Role Play and Modeling
Role-playing is an effective intervention that includes pretend play situations where students are required to enact a character with their fellow mates. This will help them apply the skills learned in pretend play in real-life scenarios. Specific situations that will help them be better at social skills can be created where children are either provided scripts or just prompts so that they can use their own imagination to act in a certain way.
For example, going to class on the first day of school and making new friends, or talking to a teacher about the difficulty they are facing in some subjects. If children are made to engage in such role plays, it will enhance their communication skills and even reactions. It is likely that they start applying similar situational responses to their real-life situations when they encounter one.
Modeling is another technique similar to role-play that works on the idea of exposing learners to a certain kind of behavior with the purpose of making them learn the same and further expecting them to adapt and include it in their behavior.
2. Social Stories
Social stories are a social skills intervention program that was built by Carol Gray, mainly for students with autism spectrum disorders. The concept of this intervention is based on storytelling. Children are told stories that have a social goal of having listeners relate to the character and explore its feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. This intervention is directed towards students to find themselves as the characters and further reflect upon their social environment, including their thoughts and feelings by opening them into behavior.
3. Social Life – LD by Wiener & Harris
The Social Life -LD program is a social skills training program based in a classroom setting whose implementation is done through a board game designed by its developers. It consists of a facilitator’s manual for the trainer, teacher, or parent. The Social Life -LD focuses on several categories listed below.
- Emotion regulation
- Dealing with bullying and peer pressure
- Communication skills
- Self advocacy
- Age-appropriate behavior
- Planning and organization
4. Team Building and Leadership
Team Building activities are essential for all children to grow in their social aspects. When children are put in a team they learn communication, collaboration, adjustment, individual differences and their acceptance, a sense of belongingness, and how to make bonds. It is very vital for children to be placed in environments where they use teamwork for the completion of some tasks. Team building activities improve interaction and engagement and should be incorporated into intervention programs as well as classrooms.
Leadership makes children more confident and gives them a sense of responsibility. Public speaking is another skill that comes with leadership improving social skills.
5. Life Skills Programs
Life skill programs should be a part of interventions planned for children with disabilities as not only do they provide support for non-academic aspects of a child’s life, but also teach children skills like problem-solving and decision making. They also work on the emotional intelligence of children further enhancing their social skills. There are various organizations such as Family Vision that conduct such workshops as per the needs of the children.
Social skill interventions for LD: Why is it crucial?
Social skills deficits often accompany learning deficits and have been prominent and intense to the point that they need to be resolved. Providing interventions that aim to resolve such problems and difficulties that make children unable to prosper in their social environment is vital for them to enhance the same.
Social skills interventions such as roleplays, team building, and other interventions facilitating communication training have resulted to be helpful in the rehabilitation of speech impairments. This indicates that social skills interventions aid language and speech.
Research has also found the effects of social skills interventions to be a sound and valid approach to promoting inclusion in diverse and challenging classrooms. Social skills encourage children to be more accepting of their peers who may be different from them in abilities and needs.
Poor social skills affect the most important areas of their life such as academics, peer groups, and family. To improve these aspects and help children grow in a holistic manner, interventions for social skills are quite crucial. If a child is deficient in a healthy social environment where it has good interpersonal relationships with its family and friends, it will only become harder for them to cope with the already existing difficulties of life and those pertaining to their disability.
To wrap up, we can say that social skills intervention is based on the assumption that problems in social skill interaction are a result of inadequate knowledge of social rules. This could be due to the learning disorder present in the child that prevents the child from looking at things in a conventional way. Therefore, social skill intervention aims to teach new skills, enhance existing ones and efficiently maintain the previously learned skills.
Interventions are required to decrease an individual’s vulnerability through social skills development. A child with a learning problem, such as a language processing disorder, may have difficulty understanding what another person says or means. He might also have trouble expressing his ideas in speech. Either of these problems can interfere with interpersonal communication.
- Why Teach Social Skills to Learning Disabled Students? (1985, December). Sharon Vaughn.
- Social Skills Across the Life Span, 2020. (n.d.). Social Skill Intervention.
- The Effect of Social Skills Interventions in the Primary School. (n.d.). Alexa Denham. https://doi.org/10.1080/02667360500512411