Social Skills and Perspective Taking

Social skills can be one of the more complicated areas for SLPs to treat. It’s in the world of pragmatics that we find a lot of complicated, confusing, gray areas and often wrestle with what areas we need to focus on to help our students. I am going to share some tips for working on social skills and perspective taking with students.

This past school year we had a couple of autism evaluations for students in 5th-6th grade. At first glance, these students seemed like they had typical social skills, but they were struggling with peer interactions at school. We planned out a full evaluation where we assessed language skills and pragmatics in a variety of ways. One of the areas we decided to focus on with our students was in the area of perspective taking.

Often times our students with social disorders get really good at learning the “rules” for politeness, basic interactions, greetings, etc., but there are so many more underlying skills that need practice, too. One of these areas is perspective taking.

I look at perspective taking as two different, but similar, skills: being able to see things from another person’s perspective, and being able to look for different possible scenarios in a situation. Allow me to explain…

When looking at a scene playing out in front of us, it’s easy to jump to one conclusion and go with it. Looking at the photo below, you might initially think, wow, he’s giving her a car! But what else could be happening? Maybe he’s letting her drive for the very first time…maybe it’s her older brother letting his sister borrow his car. Sometimes our students need practice looking at situations with different perspectives.

To practice this skill, I like recommend using real photos, or even short video clips. Try to find realistic situations that your student might be able to relate to in some way.

Help students practice thinking about who the people in the photo are and how they could be related. Start with the obvious and then build from there. Look at what is happening in the photo. What could each person be thinking. Look for clues in facial expressions and posture.

I have a social skills and perspective taking resource that I created to help with this. This resource includes 30 different real photo scenarios. Discussion questions are also included to help students talk through different ideas while looking at each photo.

Here are some files you can use for teaching perspective taking. 


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