Social skills training for children and adolescents can be difficult as generalisation often occurs outside of the home. This requires going out and practising with a number of unfamiliar people, which can be difficult to orchestrate. Another great place to practice pragmatic skill outside of the home can be at a restaurant. Practice can be done in a number of ways and for a range of social skills such as improving eye contact, conversational turn taking, topic maintenance and social greetings.
Here are a few pragmatic activities that you can practice at a restaurant:
Practising small talk
Practising small talk is often a struggle for those who struggle with social conversations. Individuals with Autism often make the mistake of going into too much detail or talking about themselves or a random topic of their interest too much. Practising small talk at a restaurant can be done by giving the individual the task of having a short conversation with the person at the register when they are paying.
A few key tips should be given directly to the person so they execute the conversation in a socially appropriate manner. Remind them that the person is not a friend by an acquaintance so it is appropriate to ask questions such as ‘How was your day’ or comment on the weather. It is not as appropriate to talk about personal topics or ask questions about the person too far into the future such as “Are you going on a holiday next year”. Remind them to keep it short and only talk about themselves if the person asks about them.
Appropriate commenting and responding to questions
Often individuals that struggle with social skills will have difficulty knowing when not to be very critical and overly honest in social situations e.g. when someone gets a new hair cut that does not look good, they may inappropriately say ‘that hair cut makes you look ugly’. This comment may be ok to a close friend however, they have difficulty picking the appropriate contexts when they are allowed to be so brazen.
A restaurant can be a great place to practice perecting these skills as the waiter will often tend to ask how the dishes were, giving way for the opportunity to answer appropriately and you can even pre-warn your waiter of the activity you are working on to avoid any awkwardness. Explain what responses should be given in a direct manner, making sure to note that not too much detail should be given, always try to give positive comments or at least neutral unless there was something dangerous or unsanitary about the meal such as a fly or a sharp object in the food. For example if the meal was bad you could explain that instead of saying it was great they can say it was ok.
Contact us for results focused speech therapy
This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have questions about language activities or speech pathology, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.