Social Emotional Learning for Children with Communication Disorders

Children, teenagers, and young adults need social-emotional skills to be successful at school, home, and for their lives. These are the skills that help kids build confidence, understand their own strengths and weaknesses, collaborate with others, navigate social situations, develop strong relationships, and make better decisions. These are critical skills for all learners.

Some activities to integrate in speech language therapy and/or at home:

  1. Journaling
  • Many prompt questions can be used to help children journal their feelings. This activity can be cotreated with an occupational therapist or special education teacher. Let them express themselves through their writing. If they are comfortable, they can share their journaled thoughts.
  • Some questions that may be asked: “When was a time that you used self-control?” or “Describe a challenge that you have faced at school. What did you do?”
  1. Talk about Managing Emotions
  • It’s important for younger children to identify emotions at an early age. A short story can be used with children to place themselves in the perspective of the main character. This activity can develop their ability to understand their feelings, while engaging in language therapy.
  1. Practice Social Problem Solving
  • Encourage children to answer social problem solving in their own way. Once they provide an answer, add some suggestions to clarify the most respectful approach to a problem. A speech-language pathologist, may ask during pragmatic language therapy, “What should you say or do in this situation?”
  1. Encourage Positive Self-Talk/Affirmations
  • Self-talk is a very powerful skill to help children start their day. Encourage children to say positive affirmations aloud with or without their peers.
  • The following can be used: “I can think.” “I can learn.” “I can work hard.” “I am enough.” “I am proud of myself.” “I can share my ideas.” “I am unique.” “I can achieve great things.”  “I can have a great school year.”
  • In addition, children are very creative, and they can create their own positive affirmations as well.
  1. Practice Mindfulness with Breathing Exercises
  • When a child is angry, it is best to ease the situation with breathing exercises. Some children do not know how to calm down on their own. By practicing mindfulness, children will become more focused on the activity, while relaxing their mind and body.
  1. Discuss Empathy
  • Discuss empathy and respect. Teach children to consider the feelings of others from peers to adults. Always encourage children to speak their viewpoints and also deliberately listen to the thoughts and opinions of others without interrupting.
  1. Encourage Active Listening Skills
  • Some children may have trouble in displaying emotions or recognizing other’s emotions. Let children listen to each other during group therapy by initiating personal questions or an age appropriate social scenario problem. In addition, children may use their active listening skills at home with their parents. Encourage young children to listen with their ears and then provide responses that are respectful of their communication partners.

Effective social emotional abilities contribute to several positive impacts on the lives of children and adolescents. Speech language pathologists specialize in pragmatic language or social language skills. During therapy sessions, clinicians may facilitate intervention so that young people can gain the skills they need to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a variety of situations and settings. Addressing social emotional learning skills are related to the life changing work that speech language pathologists provide for children and families on a regular basis. This can truly make a difference in the lives of those with communication disorders and co-occurring learning disabilities, autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and/or challenges with Executive Functioning.