With an increase in video games, social media, and so many other virtual platforms, socializing in-person was already becoming a thing of the past. Enter 2020, and we are all finding ways to stay connected through these same virtual platforms and with addition of others, like FaceTime and Zoom. The difference being that prior to this year, socializing virtually was our choice, now it is how we can best maintain our health and well-being, practice social distancing, and maintain some sense of normalcy.
Social Challenges for Individuals with Disabilities
For most of us, while different and maybe a little awkward, at first, we can manage socializing virtually. However, for individuals with developmental disabilities and a number of other disabilities, socializing, which was already difficult pre-COVID 19, can be a huge barrier in a virtual world. There are so many added unknowns: How do you greet? When is it your turn to speak? Camera or no camera? What do you share in the chat?
Teaching social skills is not easy. Learning social skills when there are social and communication deficits present is also not easy. We also run into the aspect of preference—some individuals prefer to be on their own and not really socialize too much. Regardless of preference, though, teaching social skills is essential to function in society. And maintaining social skills during this time, is just as important. How do we do this?
Virtual Socialization Ideas
For individuals who were already engaging in different types of socialization, continuing that socialization is key. You can schedule time on Zoom, FaceTime, or any other platform that allows for virtual in-person socialization. Check out this link for games you can play on Zoom.
Another way to maintain socialization is online video games. Yes, I said it…video games. While maybe not your first choice, playing video games online, where socialization can take place live with others can help to maintain already learned skills and keep a connection to others.
For individuals who maybe were just learning social skills and have good communication skills, finding online groups can be a good way to keep that momentum going. Looking into school-sponsored, virtual extra-curricular activities can also be a good way to engage in socialization with similar-age peers.
For individuals who are maybe a bit on the shy side or need some additional assistance engage in socialization, you can look into virtual social skills groups offered by the school. If their school does not already have one in place, you can look into requesting it. This will provide a more structured virtual environment for building social skills. Online games, where social interaction takes place, but maybe not necessarily through a live video can also be good t=for those that are shy or new to socialization. Check out this link for some ideas.
At home, you can engage in family game nights, outdoor/indoor games, and constant modeling of conversations, spontaneous commenting, and even narrating what you are doing. These last two tips will help to build vocabulary and pairs the words with the action.
We Can Help!
For those who are needing an in-person social experience, we will be offering a COVID-safe, outdoor, in-person social skills group in early 2021. Look out for the details in the days to come.
For those looking for a social skills group from the comfort of their home, we will also be offering a virtual social skills group in early 2021. Look out for the details in the days to come.