Social Skills

Building friendships

The child who is not organising sensations well is also likely to struggle with making friends and keeping them. School can put a child under a lot of stress as they have to work harder than their peers and many children with poor sensory processing feel helpless and anxious at school.

Responses to social situations

If a child is standing in line and someone accidently bumps them, they may become angry or hit out. This anger and hitting has nothing to do with interpersonal relationships but instead are an automatic reaction to sensations that they cannot tolerate. Some children are not able to talk about these problems or understand them as it is occurring in brain processes that are below consciousness and control.

Coping with social activities

Some children with sensory processing difficulties can be very aware of what is difficult for them and may withdraw from engaging in situations that are worrisome for them, this can include group activities. People may think the child is being antisocial and this can impact on them making friends. The child with motor planning difficulties may struggle making friends as they know their motor skills are not as good as their peers and thus they also can withdraw from engaging any social activities.

Ideas to help support Social Skills in the classroom

The child whose brain is not organising sensations well is likely to struggle with making friends and keeping them.

  • Regular proprioceptive input during the day to support body awareness and modulation.
  • Discussions about force and how hard to push or pull during activities and when playing.
  • Allowing the child to line up either at the front or the back of the line if they are sensitive to touch input.
  • Minimise the amount of children in a group if the child is sensitive to sound.
  • Scaffold peer conversations and practice in small groups how to have a conversation.
  • Set tasks that are achievable to the child and celebrate success. 
  • Ensure the child is supported in PE whilst supporting socialisation.
  • ‘The Zones of Regulation’ is a handy tool to explore with children. It links visuals, colours and emotions to body feelings. It helps identify sensory ‘tools’ to support successful engagement and also highlights how our ‘zone’ or feelings can impact on others.