We have a lovely son who is very intelligent but whose social skills lag far behind his peers. As much as he often doesn't realise quite how awkward or inappropriate his behaviour is, he regularly feels fed up because he doesn't have many friends and he doesn't understand why some of the children don't want to play with him. I bought this book on an impulse, thinking that it certainly couldn't harm to have a browse through it...and it has been an absolute revelation!
Upon first starting to read this book I have to admit that I felt a little overwhelmed! Our son's social problems were pretty evident...but near the start of the book there is a list of behaviours that often indicate problems with social skills and I was shocked to see that my son exhibited most of them! Some of the behaviours I hadn't even put down to poor social skills as, I guess, they were less "in your face" than some of the others. So, I embarked upon my journey through the book feeling a little disheartened and wondering how on earth I would ever be able to help him. The book, by the way, isn't disheartening at all - in fact it's pretty upbeat and very much has a "we can do this" attitude throughout. That list was a bit of a blow to me though!
Getting past that, the book is divided up into chapters that each tackle an important social skill or set of skills. The chapters are organised so that the easier to grasp social skills are tackled first, and the trickier ones later on. The chapters are: Introduction; How to Use This Book; Getting Started; Joining In; Communicating and Conversing; Reading Social Signals; Raising Self-Esteem; Coping with Teasing; Managing Stress; Solving Social Problems; Resolving Conflicts; Managing Anger; Putting It All Together and Afterword - For parents of Children with Special Needs.
I thought that the organisation of a skill/set of skills per chapter worked really well. Each chapter has a checklist at the start that you can run through to see if it's likely that your child needs help in this area. If it looks like they're ok in that particular area then you can head straight on to the next chapter. I initially read through the whole book, but am now working through each chapter with my son at a very relaxed pace. Each chapter gives ideas for exercises that you can do with your child to help them with this skill, and I have to say that many of them have worked brilliantly for us. We've also managed to integrate quite a few of the ideas into our normal family life, so that he gets the practice that he needs. As a measure of how well it has worked so far, we recently had family visit that hadn't seen my son in a couple of months and they were amazed at the difference in him. He also came back from school yesterday and reported that he'd had a conversation with his friend, which he'd initiated! Believe me, that was a big step for him!
I'm sure that this book won't work for every child, but it really is worth giving it a go! We've discovered that our son just doesn't seem to learn social skills naturally and instead has to be taught them. I don't imagine that he's ever going to be the most natural at socialising...but this book has given me huge hope that at least eventually he should be able to function relatively comfortably in a social situation, make friends and keep them...and above all be happy :) Highly recommended.