Does your child have emotional outbursts, struggle with their emotions, or have trouble connecting with other children?

Maybe you’ve noticed that your child seems anxious in social situations or seems to miss social cues that their peers don’t.

If so, they may be struggling with a social skills deficit.

Everybody develops their social skills at different rates, and children are no different. However, if it seems like your child is falling behind their peers, there may be something deeper at play.

Here at Little Feet Therapy, we can help.

One of the pediatric occupational therapy specialty services we offer is occupational therapy for social skills deficits.

A pediatric occupational therapist can work with your child to enhance their ability to engage with the social world around them.

Play is the main “occupation” that children participate in, and within play many of their social skills develop.

Some kids need guidance to learn how to navigate play and other social situations, and occupational therapists are trained to find the best resources for your child.

Let’s take a look at how pediatric occupational therapy for social skills deficits works.

What Are Social Skills?

Social skills are what your child’s relationships are built and maintained with.

How they behave in certain situations and what kinds of decisions they make socially will reflect their skills.

With good social skills, your child should be able to perform well academically, behave consistently in family and group social activities, and become involved in extracurricular activities.

These skills involve the ability for your child to identify their emotions, and should help them manage impulses and stress.

Everyone has awkward moments socially, but with the right social skills that is an exception and not the rule.

Interacting with their peers should not be stressful for your child, and if it is, they may be struggling with their social skills.

What Are Common Social Skills Deficits?

Maybe you’ve noticed that your child has trouble making and keeping friends.

Perhaps they have difficulty connecting with the people around them.

Learning to get along with others may be challenging for them.

This could include settings like sports, school activities, or gatherings with friends.

Ultimately, they may demonstrate that they can’t regulate their emotions or control their reactions to social situations.

These are all common deficits in social skills.

There are three different types of skills that may be utilized in social interactions: interpretation, perception, and response. Let’s take a look at how deficits in each of these can affect social skills development.

Poor Interpretation Skills

Interpretation skills are how we process and respond to social interactions with our peers.

If your child struggles with interpretation skills, they may be overly literal.

They might have trouble getting peoples’ attention or greeting people.

They may also find it difficult to view situations from other perspectives.

Poor Response Skills

Response skills are how your child responds to the social stimuli around them.

They may participate in oversharing information, interrupt, or blurt out responses.

Maybe they are constantly fidgeting and moving around, or perhaps they monopolize conversations and can’t read their peers’ reactions.

Overall, your child may exhibit poor response skills if they can’t adapt their language to different situations and people.

Poor Perception Skills

Perception skills involve how your child interprets the social environment they are in.

This may be demonstrated if they don’t seem to understand facial expressions and body language, or don’t notice rejection cues.

They may also have trouble listening and paying attention to others, or simply have little interest in what their peers are doing and saying.

Causes Of Social Skills Deficits

Social skills deficits can occur when your child has trouble dealing with big emotions.

They may have anxieties over change or transitions.

If your child struggles to identify their emotions or understand how they influence their actions, they may lack self confidence when it comes to managing their impulses.

Environmental factors can contribute to these stressors, as well as mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, nonverbal learning disability, and social communication disorder, are all conditions that can contribute to an increase of social skills deficits. Let’s take a closer look at each.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder characterized by your child being unable to pay attention, overly active, or having trouble controlling their behaviors.

ADHD is one of the most common developmental disorders found at a young age.

Because they may have trouble paying attention in social situations, ADHD can affect your child’s interactions with their peers.

Occupational therapy for ADHD often focuses on, among other things, social skills development.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause behavioral challenges.

People with autism spectrum disorder may communicate, behave, and interact differently from other people. This can lead to social and communication barriers with peers.

If your child has autism spectrum disorder, occupational therapy can help with a number of factors, including social skills development.

Other Factors

Environmental factors can be another factor if your child is struggling with social skills. If your child doesn’t have the chance to properly socialize with others, for example, it can cause social skills deficits.

Anxiety and depression can contribute to social deficits in your child.

Past failures in social situations may also be an issue, andincrease anxiety and depression.

How Can Pediatric Occupational Therapy For Social Skills Development Help?

Pediatric occupational therapy can be a vital asset in assisting your child with their social skills development.

Occupational therapists have the main goal of helping children participate fully in everyday life.

Children learn from play, but if your child is struggling, they may need tools to help them better engage with their peers.

Your child’s occupational therapist may use the following approaches to help your child build their social skills:

  • Breaking down tasks
  • Using your child’s interests
  • Understanding the environment
  • Learning and acknowledging the stages of play
  • Gaining appreciation for play and socializing

Occupational therapists may use tools like certain children’s books and other empathy crafts.

They find many activities that engage with important aspects of socializing.

Some of these activities may involve:

  • Role models
  • Group games
  • Social stories
  • Social scripts
  • Video modeling
  • Self Regulation
  • Understanding emotions

Your child’s occupational therapist will be able to identify which activities will best suit your child, and help them improve their social skills so they can feel more free and happy within their peer interactions.

If it sounds like your child may benefit from pediatric occupational therapy for developing social skills, now is your chance to reach out.

Your child can develop a strong social network and be prepared for school and their future.

Book your appointment with Little Feet Therapy today.

Give your child the strongest start in life.

Book Your Appointment With Little Feet Therapy Today