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					SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Activities For Developing Social / Communication Skills

Some children have difficulties within the following areas of their social / communication development: taking part in conversation, understanding emotions and playing with others / forming friendships. Find on the next pages advice and activities that you may find useful to try in order to address these difficulties. For more specific and/or detailed advice please consult with your local Speech and Language Therapy Service. The activities are set out under the following headings

Taking part in conversations Successful conversations between individuals involve a number of things including the following: looking at the person who is speaking, taking turns to be the speaker and then listener, staying on the topic of conversation and knowing how to start, join / interrupt or end a conversation. Within this section you will find activities that you can carryout to support children to develop the following skills: Eye contact Turn taking Staying on the topic of conversation Starting, joining/ interrupting and ending conversations

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Understanding Emotions Language associated with the emotions can be difficult for some children to understand and use, as emotions are abstract concepts. Some children with social / communication difficulties cannot express how they or others feel because they have not; developed a vocabulary for emotions and/or do not recognise facial expressions. They may also find it difficult to understand or interpret how others feel. Within this section you will find activities that you can carryout to support children to develop the following skills: Recognising facial expressions Developing a vocabulary for emotion names Recognising and identifying own emotions Interpreting how another may feel

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Games / Activities / Advice to develop - Eye contact  Copy Cat – Played in pairs. One child is the leader and has to carryout a series of actions and the other child, (or you), has to copy them. Take it in turns to swap roles. Useful game to start with as it involves the child looking at and observing the other person as well as being looked at in return Whose hat is it – One child closes his eyes and the other puts on a hat from a selection. The other child has pictures matching the hats and they have to choose the right one to match after opening their eyes. Swap roles Which glasses – As above but this time there are a selection of glasses and pictures that match them, (you can make some out of cardboard or use real ones if you have a selection), again the players should take it in turns to be the wearer and the guesser What can you see – Each player takes it in turns to look at the child next to them and comment on eye colour, colour of hair and eyebrows etc. Swap roles Draw what you see – similar activity to above but this time the players take it in turns to draw the face of the other person. Encourage the child in the same way as above Who winked – The players sit in a circle. One of them goes out of the room. The others decide who is going to wink. The player comes back in the room and watches the other players to see if they can work out who is the winker Wink sleep – Similar to above but this time when the person winking winks at another, the person winked to has to pretend to fall a sleep. The other player who was out of the room has to work out who the winker is

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Games / Activities /Advice to develop – Turn taking   Building a tower of bricks – Each player takes it in turns to add another brick Rolling a ball – Each player takes it in turns to roll a ball to the next player

The above activities are good for establishing the basic rules of waiting for a person or group of people to do something before it is there turn again. As the game is simple all the child has to concentrate on is; working out whose turn it is and waiting. Remember most games that you have in your home or in school will involve an element of turn taking and will be good practise for the child to establish the basic rules. For each of the activities below you would encourage the child to, listen to the other players so that they know what has already been done / said, as well as to wait for their turn.  Pass it round – the players take it in turns to carryout part of a sequential activity such as putting a letter in an envelope. Each player has to carryout part of the sequence and tell the other players what’s been done so far and what they are doing. I went to market – Each player takes it in turns to listen and remember what every one else bought as well as adding to the list. Each player starts with ‘I went to market and bought a …’ You can go round the group as many times as you want Animal magic – Each player takes it in turns to make an animal noise but has to repeat the noise that each of the other players made as well, looking at the right player as they make their noise Pass it on – An object from within the home or school is passed around to each player and each person has to make a comment about it, but they are not allowed to repeat what someone else has already said

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Advice to develop – Staying on the topic of conversation The activities to encourage turn taking are also useful for helping a child develop the skill of staying on topic as each activity has a focus of discussion that the child must adhere to. It is most useful to use everyday situations to support the child to develop the skill of staying on topic when having a conversation. If you find that the child often switches to talk about other things of interest to them, you should gently remind them that ‘dinosaurs’, for example, were not what you were talking about and bring them back to the current subject. Assure them that you value the fact that dinosaurs are important to them and you can talk about dinosaurs together once you have finished the current topic. Praise the child for any successes at staying on topic and be explicit in your praise, eg ‘Well done, you remembered to keep talking about….. till the end, now we can talk about dinosaurs’.

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Activities / Advice to develop – Starting, joining / interrupting and ending a conversation

Some children find it difficult to begin, join / interrupt or end a conversation appropriately. Use everyday situations as a basis to start discussions and to brainstorm. Role-play with the child, or in groups is a valuable tool to use in order to practise these skills with them. Use real life events in their life for them to reflect on with you. Once you have practised the particular skills you can use television programmes or videos as a tool to play games in which the child or group have to find examples of someone starting, joining / interrupting and ending a conversation. Discuss with them whether they were appropriate or inappropriate. See activities below

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Starting a conversation 

Encourage the child to; respond to social greetings from others for example ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘how are you’ and to use them, when appropriate, in their everyday. Discuss with them why they are used, for example; it makes us feel good, it is seen as being polite etc Brainstorm with the child or group the different ways that you can approach someone that you want to talk to and start a conversation using non-verbal strategies such as; making eye contact with the person, smiling as you approach them etc Brainstorm with the child the different ways that you can approach someone that you want to talk to and start a conversation using verbal strategies. Discuss the ways that you can introduce yourself to others if you don’t know them and the social greetings that you can use eg, ‘hi my name is….’, talk about using the context of the situation to find a common subject to talk about, ‘ Is that a X box do you like playing ……game?’ Use ‘Playmobil’ type toys to act out starting conversations with the child or group. If the child is older you can use role-play with siblings / other family members or peers within school. Pretend that you are in different situations meeting people, such as a party or joining a new school / club Discuss with the child or group inappropriate ways of starting a conversation, for example walking up to someone and just standing there without using non-verbal or verbal strategies. Be explicit about why they are inappropriate Use role play to practise appropriate and inappropriate ways of starting a conversation

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Joining or interrupting an existing conversation 

Discuss and practise with the child or group the ways that they can join or interrupt an existing conversation using non-verbal strategies for example: making eye contact with one of the group to indicate to them that you want to speak Discuss and practise with the child or group the ways that they can join or interrupt an existing conversation by using verbal strategies for example: waiting for a pause in the conversation then joining in by using the same theme, ‘yes I like … as well’, ‘ no I don’t’ think he’s a good player either’, or ‘sorry to interrupt but…’, ‘excuse me’ and then waiting for an acknowledgement etc

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Discuss with the child or group inappropriate ways of joining or interrupting an existing conversation for example: approaching and ‘butting in’, shouting across the room. Be explicit about why they are inappropriate Use role play to practise appropriate and inappropriate ways of joining or interrupting a conversation

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Ending a conversation 

Brainstorm with the child or group the different ways that you can indicate to someone that the conversation has finished using non verbal strategies such as: standing up if sitting down, taking a step back if standing up, looking away from the speaker and picking up your things etc Brainstorm with the child or group the different ways that you can finish a conversation verbally. Practise using social phrases such as, ‘nice talking to you’, ‘got to go now’, ‘mum’s waiting for me’ Discuss with the child or group inappropriate ways to end a conversation, eg just walking away. Be explicit and discuss why they are inappropriate Use role play to practise appropriate and inappropriate ways of ending a conversation

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service
Advice / Activities to develop - recognising facial expressions and developing an emotion vocabulary

It is most useful to use everyday situations to support a child to develop their emotion vocabulary. When the child shows any particular emotion name it for them eg ‘you’re angry’, ‘you’re happy’ as it is useful for the child to experience the emotion as well as hearing the word for it. In this way they can link the thing that they feel with the word that describes it. However, the child may not be open to listening to you, particularly if the emotion they are feeling is anger or upset, but you can reflect on the situation with them once they are calmer and give them the vocabulary for what they were feeling. If emotion pictures alone are used the child may only associate feelings with how they look and not how they feel, thus making it difficult for them to identify their own feelings. The child with social communication difficulties may have little awareness of their own face and what it looks like when they experience an emotion. Use mirrors when carrying out activities exploring facial expressions, so the child can look at them selves. When carrying out structured activities begin with the basic emotions / facial expressions first such as ‘happy’, ‘sad’, ‘angry’, ‘scared’. Choose emotions one at a time and model the expression for the child, can they copy the expression in the mirror. Give them the word for the expression. Help the child relate the expression and word to a real life event that they have experienced. Introduce the child to photographs / pictures of different emotions. If possible have photographs to begin with of the child, class peers and family members displaying basic emotions such as happy, sad, angry, scared etc as well as published ‘emotion photographs/ pictures’, that can be used as resources. Can the child to find the right picture (recognise the facial expression and emotion name) when you name the picture eg ‘sad’. Start with two and then build up. Can the child name the facial expression / emotion.

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Advice / Activities to develop – recognising and identifying own emotions Once the child has developed a vocabulary of emotion names help the child get used to thinking about how they feel at different times. This can be achieved by asking them to think about key events that happened during the day and how the event made them feel. For example the child was allowed to go on the computer for ten minutes for ‘golden time’ at school, they didn’t get to play outside because it was ‘wet play’, they went to the cinema at the weekend with mum and dad.

At times during the day whether at home or school encourage the child to reflect with you on how they feel at that particular time. Support them to understand that there may be reasons for why they feel that particular way, due to something concrete that has happened, or there might not be and it is just how they feel and that is ok.

Brainstorm scenarios with them, for example they got a new bike for their birthday (or didn’t get one), support the child to think about how they may feel. Help them to realise that there are no right or wrong answers.

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SOCIAL / COMMUNICATION – D Activities

Speech and Language Therapy Service

Games / Activities to develop – Interpreting how another may feel  Guess the emotion – write emotion names or have pictures of the facial expression on a card and put the cards in a bag. As part of a group activity each individual has to take it in turns to ‘act’ out the emotion for the others to guess Take opportunities to discuss how each person conveyed their emotion at the end of the group. Help the group members recognise other factors that may have been used other than facial expression   A more demanding version of the above is to have a scenario written on the card rather than a specific emotion Use events happening around them either at home or school as a basis to think about how another may feel. For example it’s their sister’s birthday, a peer is moving to a new school Watch clips from television programmes or dvd’s. Support the child to focus on either: a specific character’s emotions, or just one emotion displayed by any of the characters. Brain storm after with them, were they able to recognise the emotions. Did they use any indicators other than facial expression to help them etc Within a group setting or individually, role-play different scenarios, for example, ‘a best friend moves house’, ‘going to Disneyworld for the summer holidays’ etc, with the child or children. Discuss the different emotions they may feel and the ways that they can show them

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