The most fundamental skill in all social interaction is the ability to communicate messages with great ease and confidence. For individuals identified with social pragmatic deficits, cognitive impairments, attention deficits, sensory processing disorders, and language-based learning disabilities, participating in a social world can be a challenge. Social skill deficits may be developmental or acquired. Individuals who experience brain injury can also have difficulty reading social cues and responding appropriately in social situations. Individuals identified with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) present with social pragmatic language deficits. Others with ADHD or Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities (NLD) may also have trouble with social skills. Social interactions serve to provide us with a sense of self-accomplishment, when we are successful in conveying our message. If there are physical, cognitive, or emotional barriers to our social ability, then we lose sight of the power of the interaction.
The social thinking approach to developing social skills (Michelle Garcia Winner, MS CCC-SLP) emphasizes teaching why social relationships and successful social interactions are important. Cognitive based interventions such as the social thinking approach serve to increase one's self-awareness through social interaction.
Individuals who cannot grasp the intended meaning of a social interaction, or who can only see the world from their own perspective, may struggle with making meaningful connections.
The most effective approaches to teaching social pragmatic language skills emphasize learning through a cognitive-based and process oriented approach. While the skill sets we teach children to generalize are the barometer we use to measure success in social interactions, it's imperative that we teach children to understand why it's important to be a social thinker. In a social world, those who are successful can relate to people and take on multiple perspectives, as this indicates that the individual has emotional intelligence.
As educators, parents, and support advocates for individuals with social pragmatic language deficits, we can be highly effective social models. We can model language that is both empowering and informative. We can challenge our children and adults with social learning impairments to advocate for their needs, and demonstrate empathy towards others. Active participation in interpreting nonverbal and verbal communications becomes less challenging when a clear picture of how to be social is provided.