By: Lizzie Gavin, Speech-Language Pathologist
In New York City, getting your child into a good school can be tough, even from the youngest age. Spots in high-achieving schools are hard to come by, and to secure one of those coveted spots, children need to show competitive grades and test scores. But parents may not realize that in order to support their child’s academic success, they first need to support their social skills. Social skills, or pragmatic language, refer to a person’s ability to use and understand language in daily interactions with others. These skills include perspective taking, inferencing, predicting, and understanding and respecting written and unwritten social rules. Children with strong social skills are able navigate the challenges that come with a classroom setting. They can form friendships, feel positive and safe in school, and deal with stress and conflict more easily. Strong social communication skills can also directly impact a student’s academic performance. Below are 4 academic skills that grow when a child’s social skills grow.
1. ATTENTION AND FOCUS IN THE CLASSROOM
Attention is critical in the classroom. Students are told all the time that they must “Pay Attention!” to the teacher. But before they are able to pay attention in an academic setting, they first need to develop social attention and awareness. Social attention is the ability to focus on the context, and the information the people around them are providing. When children have developed strong social attention skills, they can learn to focus their attention on their academic lessons. If your child is struggling to attend to a basic conversation or play alongside a peer for more than a few second without getting distracted, it might be time to find a social skills group to support their social attention skills. This will ultimately help them attend and achieve in the classroom.
2. READING COMPREHENSION
Schools judge a student’s reading skills based on their ability to decode and comprehend written material. A child may be a strong decoder, or have the ability to easily sound out words, but if they cannot answer reading comprehension questions they will not progress through the reading levels that are used in many schools. Reading comprehension questions are based in social knowledge. Strong readers must think about the author’s purpose, infer what a character is thinking, and predict what a character may do next. They must understand the perspectives of others, understand humor and figurative language, and draw conclusions not explicitly written in text. If your child is struggling with reading comprehension, supporting their social communication skills may be the first step in helping them to understand what they are reading.
Writing is another academic skill that requires strong social language. Similar to reading comprehension, good writers use their social knowledge to think about their audience and the purpose of their written work. Children who struggle with social skills may have difficulty producing written work that is on par with their peers. They might have difficulty thinking about their audience as they write; they may write in a way that makes sense to them – and only them. Before they are able to write an essay to persuade or entertain someone other than themselves, students must learn to consider the perspectives of others.
4. GROUP WORK
Group work is a major part of the curriculum in many schools. And what do children need to succeed in any group project? Strong social skills! Children must show flexibility, consideration of others, cooperation, and many more skills that rely on social-pragmatic language. If your child struggles with social communication, group work will be a challenge for them from the time they are young until graduation and beyond.
Does your child struggle with social communication? Does he have difficulty attending to his teacher in the classroom, following directions, or organizing and completing his homework? Does she struggle with making and keeping friendships? If so, speech-language therapy with a focus on social communication could support their success in school, which will lead to a happier, healthier, and more independent child.
Bio: Lizzie Gavin a speech-language therapist and the founder of LG Speech Therapy, a private speech therapy practice in New York City. She specializes in treating language, learning, and social communication disorders. You can contact Lizzie through her website, www.lgspeechtherapy.com or her email address: Lizzie@lgspeech.com.