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TEACHING CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS TO SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS

 

Many children who are typically developing find engaging in conversations to be quite easy.  They have picked up on the necessary skills naturally and with informal practice over time and in their day-to-day interactions with others.

But for our kiddos with special needs, we may need a more explicit approach.  Conversational skills often need to be broken down into small, manageable steps.  Each of those steps may need to be explicitly taught, practiced, re-taught, practiced in multiple environments, and so on.

Before we talk about how to teach conversational skills, let’s talk about why to teach conversational skills.

Our students need to be able to engage appropriately in conversations, to have successful social interactions.  However, this is not a quick and easy skill to teach, as there are many variables to consider.

Within the context of social interactions, we have many different types of conversations; from formal to informal, chit chat to deep conversations. 

We have conversations that are with people we know well and conversations with people we do not know well.

We have conversations that are the only thing we are focused on, and conversations while doing something else; like walking down the hall or working on a school project.

The tricky part for our kiddos with special needs, is that each of these types of conversations require different or at least a somewhat different set of skills.

So for our kiddos, this usually means A LOT of extra {explicit} learning.

 

 

Why Teach Conversational Skills?

 

Because conversations are a big part of our social experience.  

The ability to engage in conversations impacts our friendships, relationships with siblings, parents, teachers and the community. 

Good communication skills helps us to make and maintain friendships and positive relationships, get along with others and perform well on school projects and on sports teams. 

Poor communication skills, likewise, cause our students to have difficulty making and maintaining friendships, have negative and/or challenging relationships with others, and have difficulty working collaboratively with groups on school projects or on sports teams.

What Are The Specific Skills Within Conversational Skills?

 

Conversational skills are many!  Here are the Four Components of a conversation and the corresponding social skills needed to engage in each:

1. Joining a Conversation {joining a conversion already in progress}

>Key Skills Required: Perspective Taking {knowing when to start talking, the ability to figure out, understand and stay on topic}, Personal Space, Reading Body Language and Reading Facial Expressions

2. Starting a Conversation

>Key Skills Required: Having a Topic, Having a Starter Phrase/Question, Personal Space, Perspective Taking, Eye Contact

3. Maintaining a Conversation

>Key Skills Required: Eye Contact and Body Orientation, Voice Volume and Tone, Turn Taking, Responding To Others, Handling Interruptions and Making Clarifications/Corrections, Understanding Non-Verbal Communication {facial expressions and body language}.

Need Help Teaching Non-Verbal Communication?

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4. Ending a Conversation

>Key Skills Required: Salutations, Perspective Taking

But before our kiddos can do any of that, they need to possess some prerequisite social skills.   

I think of it kind of like real estate. 

Location, Location, Location!

How you stand, where you look, as you are talking and listening, and where your brain is at {what you are thinking about}, is key to a good conversation. 

 

Many of our kiddos need explicit teaching to know:

  • How close/far away to stand to the conversational partner(s)
  • Where to look as they are talking/listening
  • Where to look as they are responding/asking questions
  • How and why to keep their brain focused on the topic

 

I hope you find this information helpful.  Stay tuned for next week’s post for more great tips, resources and freebies!

 

Thanks So Much and Happy Teaching!

Cindy ~Socially Skilled Kids

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