No Friends: Helping The Out-Of-Sync Child Develop Social Skills

boys-will-be-boys-1146660-mMost of the children I see in my OT practice have significant struggles with social skills.

They try to fit in and make friends, but are often at a loss for how to respond to social cues. They appear to lack knowledge about personal space, body language, tone of voice, the rules of conversation, and empathy.

Here’s one example: Evie is excited about her new Barbie doll and wants to show Olivia her toy. She initiates enthusiastic conversation, showing off Barbie’s smooth blonde hair and sparkly outfit.

As Evie excitedly chatters, she doesn’t pause to allow Olivia to contribute. At first Olivia tries to interject, then change the subject, but even as Olivia appears to lose interest and start to edge away, Evie is oblivious.

She follows Olivia out of the room and firmly shakes her arm to regain her attention. At last Olivia turns to Evie in annoyance and says, “Why can’t you leave me alone? I don’t want to talk to you right now!”

It is very painful for parents to watch their child struggle to fit in.

Thankfully, once we understand that the child is simply unaware of the rhythm of social situations, we can begin to help him or her develop that awareness.

Paying Attentionmaracas-Witthaya Phonsawat

One simple approach focuses on teaching the “off-beat” child to pay attention to the “beat.”

Try the following activities with your child, and not only will you strengthen their internal awareness of social rhythm, you will have fun while you bond.

Shake maracas to the beat of happy music. It’s best to use simple, familiar songs with a beat that is easy to get the hang of, such as “This Old Man” or “Row Your Boat.”

Roll or swing to the rhythm of your favorite tunes.

Use a metronome and have your child toss a ball up and down or from person to person to the beat.

Create a simple, repetitive beat and then get more complex. Have your child start the beat. You follow him.

Tell your child, “Let me see the dancer in you!”as you dance to a strong rhythm.


Try these activities at home and share your experiences in our comments section or email me at Miriam at otthrive dot com.


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