4 Ways to Build Social Skills in Teens with Executive Function Deficits

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If your child has social issues due to their executive function deficits, it was likely upsetting to both you and your child. Fortunately, there are several actions you can take to help your child work through these weaknesses. Early intervention can help you identify and support your child’s unique weaknesses. However because the brain continues to develop into early adulthood, intervention can be helpful at any age. The goal is to identify your child’s specific areas of difficulty and find strategies that help. Growth-promoting environments provide teens with the opportunity to practice necessary skills before they have to apply them in a real-life setting. Common interventions for teens with executive function deficits include:

  1. Providing Support at Home
  2. Simplified Social Environments
  3. Practicing Social Scripts
  4. Finding a Passion

Providing Support at Home

Parents can help develop their teen’s executive function skills by establishing routines, modeling good social behavior, and creating and maintaining relationships. It is also important parents seek out opportunities for their child to practice and develop their executive function skills that foster social connection and that focus on continual improvement. This can be as simple as sitting down with your child and playing a game of chess, which help with aspects of working memory, attention, and planning. Encouraging and giving praise along the way, even when they fall short, is essential in building confidence in children with executive function deficits as these individuals often have low self-esteem. It is important that the praise is specific so the child knows exactly what they did well.

Parents can also help their adolescent with executive function deficits by taking the time to explain different perspectives. Teens with executive function deficits are often inflexible thinkers and do not always see others’ perspectives clearly. As a parent, taking the time to explain different viewpoints can help your child expand their worldview.

Another simple step that parents can take to help their child is to simply live out loud. Because many people with executive function deficits struggle with problem solving, it can be extremely helpful for them if parents can explain abstract concepts and verbalize actions.

Simplified Social Environments

Many teens with executive function deficits are able to most efficiently improve their social skills when their social world is simplified. Social skill groups offer an opportunity for individuals to practice social skills with their peers on a regular basis. Simplified social environments allow:

  • Guided basic interaction skills
  • Reciprocal conversation practice
  • Help integrating into group
  • Ability for a counselor to track a student’s social progress

Practicing Social Scripts

Social scripts are a prompting strategy that teaches individuals with social challenges to use a variety of language and common phrases during social interactions. Social scripts can be used in both social skill groups and in a one-on-one basis. The primary objective of social scripts is to teach students how to interact with their peers and adults. Social scripts also help teens with appropriate eye contact, expression, and tone. Playing out different scenarios help individuals with executive function deficits to learn how to compromise and negotiate with others and how to settle conflict. Ultimately, the goal of social scripting is to help individuals use the social skills learned using the scripts to real-life situations.

The process of social scripting works as follows: A teen learns a scripted question such as, “How was your weekend?” First the teen uses a reminder card with the script and then works towards spontaneously using the phrase. Eventually, the individual will have a repertoire of scripts to help them initiate conversations and social interactions in real-life circumstances.

Finding a Passion

Many teens with executive function challenges have creative interests such as theater, yoga, music, dance, visual arts, and writing. Parents should support and help their teen pursue activities that can help their children gain self-esteem and self-confidence. Finding a passion can also help these teens learn important skills and create friendships with those who share similar interests. It’s important for parents to let their child explore a variety of different options until he or she finds something that excites and inspires him or her.

Download our White Paper to find out more ways you can help your child with executive function deficits

About Vantage Point by Aspiro

Vantage Point is a specialized offshoot of Aspiro Adventure, the program that pioneered wilderness adventure therapy. Vantage Point focuses on helping students with executive function disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Nonverbal Learning Disorders, among others.

The Vantage Point programs are designed to build self-efficacy in our students through overwhelming mastery experiences – our students accomplish goals they never believed possible, which creates a belief that they are capable of changing their own lives for the better. We focus specifically on social dynamics and social skills to help our students connect with others and feel like they can be a part of the world. Experiential Learning is a tenet of our philosophy and our program. Paired with ongoing individual therapy and targeting specific areas for growth, our wilderness therapy programs are proven successful by outcome studies and are overseen by experienced Field Guides and clinical professionals