Targeting Social Skills via Teletherapy

It may seem challenging and unnatural to target social skills via teletherapy. What do you do when you can't practice with same-aged peers? Don't worry! I will discuss ways to incorporate social skills instruction into your teletherapy sessions that are fun, engaging, and effective. Below you will find some therapy ideas and resources for the areas of play, conversation, and direct pragmatics instruction.

  1. Play Skills: 
    1. Model Toy Play
      1. Requires knowledge of the kind of toys the child has at home and preparation
      1. Examples: car/car ramp, Mr. Potato Head, Playdoh, blocks
      1. Use video models
        1. Youtube has some great examples of children playing with toys that may be beneficial for your therapy session
        1. Share the video and encourage the child to give it a try
    1. Train Parents
      1. Support parents in playing with their child by being a "coach"
        1. Tell parents you will observe play for 5 minutes and then give feedback
        1. Praise parents for all the great things they are doing
        1. Teach one skill to practice during the session, ex. "Today we will talk about following your child's lead."
        1. Check in during the next session about how the week went
    1. Include Siblings
      1. Siblings can be a vital resource for functional play and play skill expansion
        1. They can offer a typical model for pretend play
        1. It can be more motivating to play with siblings than just playing with clinician or parents
        1. It is functional since a sibling may be the only peer a child is exposed to at this time.
      1. Provide training to the sibling
        1. "Try waiting for your sister to ask for the spinner, rather than just giving it to her."
        1. "Let's pretend the animals on the farm are eating. Can you give your brother a cow and show him how the cow eats."
  • Conversation
    • Model Conversation in a variety of ways
      • Use video models from YouTube
        • You can choose the child's favorite characters or tv show
        • Analyze the conversation after watching
          • What worked?
          • What could have been better?
    • Practice with a parent or sibling
      • Use visuals to track conversation
        • Zoom's whiteboard function can provide immediate visual feedback
  • Pragmatics Instruction 
    • You can easily target non-verbal language, inferencing, predicting, problem solving, etc.
    • Use videos to make instruction fun and relevant
      • Examples:
        • Pixar Short videos
        • Ellen's "Epic or Fail" videos
        • Simon's Cat
        • Lucas the Spider
    • Use wordless books
      • Examples (from Epic):
        • Rosie's Glasses
        • Captain Barbosa and the Pirate Hat Chase
        • Woodrow at Sea
        • Monkey Goes Bananas
        • Field Trip to the Moon

Targeting social skills may feel daunting in telehealth sessions, however, if you prepare online resources, access interactive tools, and utilize members of the patient's household, your sessions will put the "fun" in functional!