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Learning social skills is key for children with disability

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May 31, 2023

Some of the most important skills that children learn at school aren’t taught in the classroom.

Social skills are crucial and impact everything from a child’s academic performance to their relationships. However, for children with disability, these skills don’t always come naturally.

Isabella Sharp, one of the facilitators of Secret Agent Society at Lifestart, says that the importance of learning social skills for these children can’t be overstated.

“There’s such a strong link between how well someone does at school and their ability to socialise with other people. Especially in the ages of 8-12, that’s when you’re making key relationships with people: teachers, parents and friends,” Isabella says.

Although these skills are vital, they are not taught in school. For some children, and particularly children with disability, this can present challenges.

“When we’re dealing with children with disability, communication can be a huge obstacle. From a autism perspective, reading body language and understanding emotions doesn’t come naturally to a lot of children,” Isabella says.

Isabella coaches children though these obstacles in Secret Agent Society, a program that supports children aged 8-12 with disability, including conditions like autism, ADHD and anxiety. The program focuses on common obstacles that children can face in their social interactions and practical ways they can address these situations.

Isabella says these practical tips can make a big difference for children.

“We give them cards with strategies on them that they can bring to school and keep them in their wallet. So for example, if they are having a meltdown or they’re starting to feel like they’re going to have on, they can go to a quiet space with the card.”

Learning how to socialise and communicate with others on their own can have flow-on effects for children of this age group.

“I worked with one boy who had group work to do that involved a level of negotiation that he was not keen on. We went through a problem-solving formula, and he applied that to the problem and he was able to work through it, instead of just saying ‘No, I’m doing it my way,’ or, ‘I give up.’”

“You could see that he was really proud of this. It impacted so many of his relationships with other children in his year because they could see that he wanted to negotiate and share. You could see how big of a step that was for him.”

Learning social skills is beneficial for children’s academic success, but they also have far-reaching benefits. Social skills are a vital part of all our lives and interactions.

Ultimately, Isabella says, “These skills are just so important to every for every single person.”

Want to learn more about Secret Agent Society? Find out more and sign up here.