Wednesday, August 8, 2012

social skills in the face of a anxiety based disorder

One of the dangers with Selective Mutism is the impact that it has on their social development. You don't realize how much a part of social skills is learnt through verbal skills until you look at someone's life who is non verbal. Simple things also for a child with Selective Mutism such as waving, smiling can be impossible. Which for young children on the receiving end of the is quite difficult, how do you explain this to another child. Also the scary part is how long will they wait while their playmate stays non verbal?

So one of our goals naturally is to work on social skills, where do you start? I got some information from a book that discusses social skills and Selective Mutism. In our psychology sessions with Josiah we also work on social skills this can be as simple as just relating and speaking with the therapists he works with or it can be more targeted as in how to have a conversation and describe himself. As far as I am concerned why bother giving him lots of help with his speech both his delay and his mutism without empowering him with what to do when he is able. 

Here is an idea of what we are working on and a list we drew up:

Social Skills
  • Greet peers from school, at other places
  • Eye contact, smile, wave or say hi
  • Using manners
  • Make eye contact, use please, thank you and excuse me appropriately in complete sentences watch others reactions
  • Taking turns when playing a game
  • Wait patiently, smile, thank others for playing and wait for your turn, be gracious in winning and losing
  • Accepting invitations from others for play or other social interaction
  • Maintain eye contact and smile, or ask what others are doing, say thank you and begin to play
  • Cooperating with others in a game or project
  • Use manners, take turns, engage in small conversation, and thank others for playing

 Emotional Intelligence
  • Identifying emotions in yourself such as happiness, sadness, fear/anxiety and anger
  • Watch your body, posture and facial expressions, listen to the statements made by a person, and study the context of the situations (what is happening around the people involved).
  • Dealing with being sad or anxious
  • Relax the body, think about difficult thoughts, understand the feeling is temporary, and talk to someone
  • Controlling impulses and anger instead of acting with them quickly
  • Count silently to 10, relax the body, exit the situation appropriately, and talk to someone.
  • Sharing feelings appropriately
  • Discuss feelings when you are not angry, use manners, speak articulately and listen carefully to others reactions. 
There are so many ways that you can teach social skills, stories, practice and a lot of methods at home. But in this post I will discuss the way that we practiced social skills in the therapy setting. There are a few ways you can get started, using puppets practicing in real life situations. What we did first up the psychologist wrote out some general conversational questions such as what is your favourite colour, drink, movie that sort of thing. 

Then using the ipad and the app sock puppets you can practice this conversation record it and play it back in a normal voice or a scrubbed voice. This worked quite well and we needs to keep doing this type of thing. Social skills permeate through ever part of our lives, and not something that we can learn over night. As parents we are responsible to model to our children how to live life, how to treat people, to relate to others. If we can give our children this ability to relate to others it relates to school, work, life, relationships we can give them a healthy start on life. 


  1. Great post, my sons loves sock puppets.

  2. thanks pomfrit:) appreciate that you liked it! Don't forget to buy the added time recording to make it longer!