Social Skill Groups- Who should run them?


Early Start Speech Pathology are known throughout Newcastle and the Hunter for creating and running innovative and evidence based group programs focusing on the teaching of social skills.

Teaching social skills is a complicated business. There is a lot of thought, assessment and analysis that goes in to teaching social skills. Speech Pathologists are able to assess your child’s language skills AND social skills. Speech Pathologists are able to analyse the grey world of social skills and teach it in an adaptive flexible way that meets your child’s needs AND language abilities. Language ability plays a big part when it comes to social skills. We teach social skills depending on the level of language ability as well as social ability. We are always adjusting and compensating our own language and techniques when teaching social skills. This is really important to consider when you are thinking about which social skill group to enrol your child in and who is teaching it.

Social skills can be a blurry area at times- is it Psychology, is it Speech Pathology or is it Occupational Therapy? At times all three professions can be involved in assessing and teaching social skills. Psychology examine the areas of social anxiety and the implications that can have. Psychologists are very experienced in analysis and teaching of social skills. Occupational Therapists can assist children in regulating their behaviour and can analyse their sensory system to see if that is impacting their social skills. Speech Pathologists can examine language and social skills in finite detail and are highly skilled in teaching social skills to a range of abilities. If you think about social skills- how much is entrenched in language, both verbal and non verbal? All of it! That’s why Speech Pathologists should be your first choice, along with Psychologists when it comes to teaching social skills.

Lots of other companies throughout the Hunter are starting to create group programs. This is really exciting as it provides the consumer or client with choice. But it’s really important to think and ask the right right questions when deciding on what group program is right for your child. We have put together a list of questions to ask your provider next time you are considering their group ‘social’ programs.

1.Is it evidence based?

If you are faced with a decision as to where to go or what to enroll in we encourage you to ask your therapist/company that’s running groups if they are using evidence based approaches. Click here to understand more about what evidence practice really is.

2. Additional Training?

We encourage you to ask if they have done additional training in running the group program they are proposing.

3. What are the causes for your child’s social difficulties?

Do you think your child’s social challenges are due to anxiety or self regulation? Or does your child have a combination of language challenges as well? Has this been explored by your therapists?

4. Is the company practising within their scope of practice?

What does scope of practice mean- well that means that we work in the area that we are trained in. For example as a speech pathologist I say we work with the head up- we don’t work in fine motor skills or toilet training. Just like Occupational Therapists shouldn’t be working on a child’s communication skills or social skills beyond self regulation. Think about surgeons- you wouldn’t go to a knee surgeon if you needed brain surgery. There are scope’s of practice for a reason.

5. What “social skills” are they actually teaching?

Social skills go well beyond just turn taking, having a conversation and being amongst peers. It’s really important that you ask your provider what social skills they are teaching and how- and if it’s suits your child’s needs and abilities. Social skills need to be examined in detail and taught explicitly. So if it is “turn taking” how are they actually teaching this skill, aside from just giving your child a turn and then coping with the consequence. If it’s “having a conversation”, how does a therapist teach this? Do they go into the nitty gritty of having a conversation and how to break it down to actually teach? Or are they generalising and practising outside their scope of practice?

Early Start Speech Pathology take pride in the investment of additional training in the area of social skills. All of our programs are evidenced based and use the child’s interests to keep them engaged. Our Speech Pathologists are passionate about working within their scope of practice and know when to refer to other allied health professionals when needed.

We hope this blog has helped you understand a little more about social skills and social groups and what questions to ask when you are considering one for your child!