Social Skills and Judging Other’s Intentions

18 Nov

Social skills, and social communication is something that comes easily to some students, and for others, it needs to be explicitly taught.   Many students with language disorders have difficulty understanding figurative language, sarcasm, the body language of their communication partner, and other people’s intentions.  Using puppets to act out a variety of social situations is one thing I do in therapy to help students understand the intentions of other people and to make sarcastic and figurative language more concrete.

A large part of the ability to effectively and functionally communicate with others lies way beyond the words we say.  Being able to recognize someone’s intention or feelings based on tone, voice volume, facial expressions, body language and sarcasm is an extremely subtle part of communication.  We often don’t even realize the extent to which we use these “extra pieces” of language to communicate with each other.  Helping our kids to be successful judges of these aspects of language is critical to their overall ability to be functional communicators at home, in school, with friends, and eventually at work.

I came across some new research today in the New York Times about the ability to judge other people’s intentions in typically developing children.  The new research in the journal Child Development, suggests that children as young as 3 years old can judge a person’s intention.  Previously, it was thought that children wern’t aware of other people’s intentions until the age of 5 or 6.

What kinds of things can teachers do in the classroom and parents do at home to help foster your child’s awareness of other’s intentions?

Here are a few tips:

  • Talk about facial expressions you see in magazines.  Ask your child, “Is this person happy or sad? How do you know?
  • Cut out different pictures from magazines that exemplify “sad, happy, silly, surprised, hurt, afraid, proud,” etc.  Make up scenarios such as “Jamel’s mom unexpectedly showed up in his classroom for reading time.”  Ask your child to point to how they think Jamel felt [surprised].
  • Play guessing games about different facial expressions.  Can you make a face that is [sad, happy, silly, worried, surprised, etc.]?  or What kind of face am I making?
  • Use “social scripts” so that your child knows exactly what is expected in a certain situation.  For example, before going to the playground with your child, you can rehearse exactly what they can say to another child to ask them to play.  In therapy, I have pictures that I use that describe what happens when someone orders food at McDonalds.   Then, I walk through it step by step with the student, using the pictures to support what I am saying. “When I go to a fast food restaurant I stand in line until it is my time to order. The person taking the order will say something like, “Hi, what would you like to order?” I will say, “I want a cheeseburger, a small order of fries and a small coke.” If he asks me if I want anything else, I will say “No.” I will then hand him a five dollar bill and will be given some change. I will say, “Thank you,” when I get my food.”      – script from

Social Skills Games on the Internet:

If you’re interested in working with your child more at home or if you are a teacher interested in learning more about ways to integrate social skills into your classroom, please contact me and I’d be happy to share many more ideas and brainstorm with you to come up with strategies specific to your child’s/ student’s needs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: