According to The Autism Sourcebook written by Karen Siff Exkorn, “Speech and language therapy helps a child to communicate more effectively both verbally and nonverbally, using words and/or body language.”
I am grateful that the public school system provided speech and language therapy for my son, JJ, for 15 years. During his early intervention years (preschool), the focus was mostly on his speech working with his lisp. As he got older, the emphasis was placed more on processing language, and communicating both verbally and nonverbally. For those with social cognitive deficit disorders, the language focus is very important. For JJ, this focus included learning how to have effective conversations, staying on topic, asking questions to keep the conversations flowing, and social skills.
Tools to Enhance Social Communication Skills
JJ’s high school speech-language therapist used games to make practicing social-communicative skills more fun. Therapeutic games helped teach pragmatics to reinforce social-communicative skills in typical situations for teens.
A great resource we used was That’s LIFE! Social Language written by Nancy McConnell and Carolyn LoGuidice – a book filled with direct instruction, role playing, observation and discussion techniques. Students learn how and why specific social language guidelines can improve interpersonal relationships.
“Competent social language skills are as important as reading skills for success in today’s world,” shares the authors.
“Employers often consider effective interpersonal skills the most important factor in hiring and keeping employees.”
Exercises in the book cover how to match the voice to the situation and how to have appropriate body language. Other important skills in the book include the responsibilities of the speaker like facing the listener, using good eye contact, watching for the listener’s reactions, using good facial expression, and staying on topic appropriately. Responsibilities of a good listener include showing interest in what the speaker is saying, asking appropriate questions, having good eye contact and facing the speaker.
These are great tools for success for those with social cognitive deficit disorders; however, for my son, changes didn’t happen overnight. It took practice, practice, practice with rote, repetition, and consistency to hard wire these skills into his thinking and behavior.