It’s Expert MONDAY!  Meghan Graham MS CCC-SLP, Karen Head MS CCC-SLP and Jill Perry MHA MS OTR/L are with us today to talk about how to teach children social skills. I had the opportunity to ask Meghan, Karen and Jill questions parents often pose when I make a referral for language therapy, social skills enhancement, social competency training or occupational therapy. You may be wondering as well…

  • What does a speech pathologist do to help our children?
  • How does an occupational therapist enhance our children’s skill sets?
  • What is social competency?
  • How do children learn social skills?
  • What social skills do children often have difficulty with and why?
  • What is Social Adventures?
  • How can parents/kids/teachers use it and how?
  • What ideas do you have for parents when their children miss social cues, are emotionally dysregulated and more…

LISTEN IN LIVE or on REPLAY as Meghan, Karen and Jill help us understand the ins and outs of enhancing our children’s social skills, emotional regulation, social relationships, anxiety, anger, bullying and more.


Guest Post written by Meghan Graham MS CCC-SLP, Karen Head MS CCC-SLP and Jill Perry MHA MS OTR/L

Over the past several years, educator, therapists and parents have become increasingly focused upon supporting positive social skills development in young children. Perhaps this has been in response to increased understanding of a number of developmental diagnoses; such as, autism spectrum disorders, nonverbal learning disorders and attentional disorders and the impact they have on a child’s social functioning.

As treating therapists, we have worked with hundreds of children with social challenges over the years through the Social Adventures Program at Children’s Therapy Associates in Natick, MA. We typically see children between the ages of 4 and 9 and at these ages we have found that children learn best through doing rather than talking about social rules. In fact, we have found that many, if not most of the children in our program are often able to articulate a social rule and even recognize when someone else is doing something “wrong”, but they aren’t able to access and effectively use that knowledge “in the moment”. Therefore, we have adopted an approach to teaching social skills which includes 3 critical components:

The first is to “boil down” appropriate social behavior into easy-to-remember Social Catch Phrases. Some examples of these include: “Let Them Know” which helps kids remember to be active listeners and let their friend know they heard them and are interested.

“No Thanks, How ‘Bout” provides a reminder that if they don’t want to do a friend’s idea, they need to offer an alternative. We have found that the most effective means of introducing the power of these catch phrases is through role play. Kids love it! We have also developed cartoon illustrations of the phrases that we use for prompting “in the moment.” We particularly like our “I Need My Space” cartoon.

The second component of our program involves attention to the sensory and motor aspects of social interaction. We recognize that inefficient processing of movement, muscle sense, and touch information leads to balance, spatial awareness, self-regulatory, and motor coordination challenges; all of which play a huge role in managing relationships. The structure of our program is based in the understanding that young children need to move to learn and thus incorporates direct teaching and practice with regard to body/space awareness, understanding body language, and self-regulation.

The final critical component of our program is to provide the kids with opportunities to use new skills during highly-motivating activities. These activities vary from table top collaborative projects to active playground games depending upon the skills being targeted. Using fun, often familiar activities to practice new skills is a powerful tool for promoting generalization.

As this program has developed over the years, we have been asked by parents and other professionals if there was a way to publish the program so that it could be more easily shared. We considered publishing a book but wanted a medium which would allow for easy updates with new activities, cartoons and other meaningful additions. We were stumped until the advent of the iPad and iPhone apps. Once we realized the flexibility that apps provide, we decided it was time to share the Social Adventures program. In April, 2011 we founded all4mychild and in October, 2011 we published our first version of the Social Adventure app which includes over 40 activities, parent tips, a Sample 8-week Program, cartoon illustrations of our 9 most commonly used Social Catch Phrases and an interactive game, the Bag Game. In February of this year, we published the Bag Game as a separate app.  Please contact us if we may help you, your students and children with social skill development.

Questions or Comments?  Send them along to  Follow us on Twitter:  @all4mychild, @SLPmeg, @airborneOT, and @speechNinja 

Meghan Gallahan Graham, MS, CCC-SLP  graduated from Ithaca College in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science  degree in Teachers of Students with Speech and Hearing Disabilities. She then went on to Boston University where she received her Masters of Science degree in Speech and Language Pathology. Meghan then was hired by Children’s Therapy Associates in Natick, MA, a pediatric multi-disciplinary clinic where she serves a range of children with various communication profiles.

Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education.  While teaching and working in a community health center, she developed a social pragmatics group with a speech-language pathologist and there fell in love with the idea that two (or more) frames of reference were better than one. Jill went on to earn a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Boston University in 1985 and became certified in administering the Southern California Sensory Integration Test; the original Sensory Integration test developed by Dr. Jean Ayres.

Karen Samstad Head, MS, CCC-SLP graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1984.  While she enjoyed the intellectual challenge of a career in pure science, she found that she craved more “people” time and soon found herself volunteering with a variety of agencies, including teaching English as a Second Language and providing respit for caretakers in a group home for children in the foster system.  Through these experiences, Karen learned of the field of Speech Language Pathology and soon entered the Master’s Program at Emerson College, where she received a degree in 1991.