What are soft skills?
Soft skills are skills that are needed in any job, including initiating and persisting at the task, asking for help, greetings, problem solving. It is important that our students begin practicing these skills as early as possible, both in the classroom and out on the job. Here are some of my favorite tips and strategies for working on soft skills with all learners.
Create Communication Opportunities.
In part two of this blog series, I highlighted three of our common on campus jobs. We have a variety of other opportunities, including recycling, sweeping the floor, dusting. Right now, many of our jobs are cleaning based and don’t necessarily require a lot of communication skills on the surface. We are working to bring back opportunities that naturally are more social that have been reduced due to the pandemic, including mail delivery, making dog treats, a coffee cart, and working at stores in the community. For now, we are making the best of what we have! Even though many of our jobs right now do not naturally require a lot of communication, we have spent time carving out opportunities for our students to practice important job related communication skills, such as greeting staff, saying goodbye/terminating the task, indicating job tasks completed, and asking for help. I encourage you to do the same! Many of my students utilize AAC, and the SLP and teacher on my team worked to program each student’s device with job-related phrases that can be easily accessed. Check out the video below to see an example of those phrases!
Signing In and Work Reflections.
This is another great and easy way to practice real life soft skills. In almost any job situation, our students may be asked to indicate when they start/stop their shift and what tasks they completed that day. You can upgrade and downgrade these activities according to your student needs. Many of my students use their name stamps to complete the daily work sign in sheet, and their work reflection sheet is visually supported. You can also have students handwrite their name and indicate specific times of work, or independently report/email their work completed on the shift.
Initiating and Persisting at the Task: The Importance of Visuals and Wait Time.
We do not want our students to rely on an adult at all times for prompts for every step of a task. This is why we place such an emphasis on training staff in regards to the prompt hierarchy and giving wait time. We try to encourage our staff to let the students show what they know before jumping in and giving a bunch of prompts. Visual checklists and timers can be important tools to assist when working on these skills as well.
Facilitate Problem Solving and Asking for Help.
This is one of the hardest areas for our staff. We have so many wonderful, helpful staff members who want to help our students succeed. Often, staff may jump in and solve a problem a student may encounter before the student has a chance to attempt to solve it on their own. Any chance we can give our students to work on solving problems independently as they encounter them in real life situations will only help them in the future. One of the biggest skills we work on in this area is encouraging our students to ask for help, even if we can read their mind and know what they need. Asking them to practice communicating that is so important for the future, especially when they may work with others who are not able to anticipate their needs. This is so important for many of our students as they transition to adult life.