In this post you will learn about social skills and how to help your student's meet their social skill goals.
Social skills are, hands down, one of the essential life skills everyone needs in a lifetime. We interact with people. And for students and teens, these daily interactions can be their solid building blocks for healthy, long-term relationships with friends and family.
Helping students navigate unique social situations involves practice and setting realistic and measurable social skills goals encompassing different scenarios.
What Social Skills Learning and Social Skills Goals Should be About
Social skills covers areas of cognition, attention, language, emotions, and even more.
Therefore, learning social skills must align with the student’s basic personal skill sets so that the process can feel gradual instead of forced. It should be about the learner and what they need to succeed.
Identifying Social Skill Areas to Focus On for Goal Writing
There are multiple facets to socialization, but we’ll highlight these areas that are key in the early stages of building connections and struggling to express themselves in public.
This has something to do with a person’s sensitivity to his environment. It’s an area where they learn the importance of listening to others in a group. It involves knowing how to participate in activities and give appropriate responses, both verbal and non-verbal.
Building relationships with peers is about cooperation and the ability to work in a group. Strengthening this area can help people show more respect for other people’s views and allows them to accept compliments from others. They also feel more confident initiating activities or conversations with peers.
This is where friendship blooms. They start to understand there emotional states concerning various external factors, like a fun event at school. They learn to feel those unique connections with some people and recognize those who make them uncomfortable.
A person’s ability to voice his opinions, ask questions, seek help, and interact with a group about a specific topic. Strengthening this area lays the foundation for widening their participation in different social scenarios.
This is where we can see confidence and self-esteem manifesting. They show motivation to learn new things, show a desire to achieve, and can make complaints without being argumentative.
Now that we’ve identified these areas, creating a list of strategic activities that cater to each aspect will be easier.
Strategies to Achieve Social Skills Goals
The great thing about teaching social skills is the vast opportunities you can try out. Here are proven-effective activities children can participate in to help them become more comfortable in social settings while developing the confidence to initiate a conversation with people.
Social narratives are simple stories that visually represent social situations and appropriate social behaviors. The social narrative connects the important details of a setting or social situation to support the autistic person in understanding the social context and in developing a new social skill. You can learn more about social narratives here.
Comic Strip Conversations
Use illustrations to introduce different social setups. Choose a scenario and create a script involving various characters. For familiarity, you can add cartoon characters that children easily recognize.
The script should focus on dialogues between two or more characters, showing proper responses and behavior in a particular scenario.
Use a Research Based Program
A research-based program like Positive Action creates a unique curriculum suited to specific grades that helps with teaching social skills in the classroom
Video modeling is a way to help an autistic individual learn new skills. This could include social skills, self help skills, or life skills. The video shows someone doing or demonstrating how to do the social skill or life skill.
Use Video Clips to Teach Specific Social Skills
You show them specific video clips and have them give feedback about characters in video clips. Ask them to describe what the character did wrong in a specific situation first. Then you can have them share how they could do the specific situation differently.
Create Their Own Video
You could try having them create their own videos while they practice social skills. Creating videos lets them have fun with learning new and different social skills. They also may help each other learn by viewing their videos and offering feedback.
Real-life Digital Photography
Bring the kids out and encourage them to take photos. They can choose their subject and enjoy observing people’s behavior before snapping a photo.
Afterward, you can ask them to share within the group what they think of the pictures and what they love most about them.
Use this activity for scenario familiarization. For example, you can pick a scene where you visit a theme park. Prepare photos of the location, the attractions you’ll see, and the foods you’ll try.
This prepares the child so they know what to expect upon their visit.
Use Structured Social Situations
You could try creating strutted social situations. You can teach a social skill to a group of students and then practice it together before generalizing it out in different contexts. You can have them learn something on their own or practice on their own, in a one on one environment, or in a small group setting.
Organize a lunch where kids get to meet and say ‘hi.’ This is a great way to encourage a sense of community. It also helps them become more familiar with other kids in your neighborhood.
Social Role Play Activities
Social role-play activities allow individuals to use their new skills creatively. Give them a scenario and ask them to come up with a short skit to act out.
You could have them come up with their own script or you could help create one for them to act out. You can include other students in the skit as well.
Think of a game where two kids can enjoy the continuous exchange and sharing of an item. Ball-kicking activity is a good example. One kid can signal the other that it’s his turn before kicking the ball across so the other kid can try it too.
These types of games have rules, which makes them a great pick for encouraging kids to ‘play by the book.’ They get to strategize and enjoy the game, all within the bounds of its rules.
Prepare creative cards with emotional pictures on each of them. Show it to the kids and ask them if they recognize the emotion. Don’t fret if they don’t. You can always name the emotion and tell them what it feels like.
For instance, you can say, “When someone is confused, they might feel like they don’t know something that all of his friends know about.”
Measuring the Efficiency of Each Activity
You can use different benchmarks to assess the responses to each activity. Below are common ones you can include in your checklist:
Engages in social play interactions.
Can identify feelings.
Practices safety measures and can identify dangers.
Follows classroom or outdoor rules as required.
Can work steadily and focus on a single task.
Shares materials with others.
Makes constructive remarks.
Maintains appropriate behavior without being reminded of it.
Asks questions about things they don’t understand.
Initiates conversations with peers.
Benchmarks help you gauge the student's progress in a given area, and you’re free to customize them the way it fits the student's learning curve.
Remember, choose an area to develop one step at a time, and enjoy seeing the student progress at their own pace.
Coping Strategies are techniques that teens can use to help them when they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, angry, or frustrated to help them feel more calm and relaxed. It is important to help teach teens how to deal with their emotions and feelings and help them find appropriate strategies to help them deal with these emotions. The teenage years can bring about new experiences which can then possibly lead to new stresses and feelings of overwhelm. Check out some of our free resources to help your teen learn how to cope with these feelings and emotions.
How to Help Teens Deal with Emotions
The teenage years can be stressful for most teens. They are trying to figure out who they are as a person and learning new things about themselves. The demands placed on them at school are getting harder. Learning to deal with all of this newness can bring about more emotions. Talking to them about these new situations and helping them come up with coping strategies that work for them can help them learn how to deal with their emotions. Use some of the free resources below to help you get started.
Do you have a teenager that has difficulty making friends at school? Friendships can be difficult for some teenagers to form and then maybe even more difficult once they leave school. Making friends can sometimes be a hard skill for teens on the autism spectrum. They may have a hard time understanding how to make conversation or how to ask someone questions to get to know them better. It could be hard to find mutual interests. Or they may not even be interested in making friends. It can be hard to learn who is actually a friend and who may be someone taking advantage of you…
They may have difficulty reading body language to understand if someone is interested in what they are saying or not. They may have a hard time understanding how to work together or when playing games how to share. There are a lot of skills that go into making friends and these can be overwhelming and difficult to teach at times.
That is why we wanted to put together some FREE resources and websites for you to check out to see if they may help you and your teen with making friends. Finding meaningful friendships can have a wonderful social impact for all teens throughout their life.
Check out our Free Social Situation Cards below! Feel free to download them by entering your name and email below. When you download this freebie you will also be signing up for our weekly newsletter!
We hope you find these free resources helpful on your journey to help your teen with friendships. Let us know in the comments below which freebie is your favorite or if there is anything else you would like to add!
Self-esteem is an important skill to learn, especially for teenagers and older kids to help them manage and regulate their emotions as they become adults. Helping them see themselves in a positive light will have lasting impressions on them as they get older. They will have increased confidence in their abilities and hopefully see themselves in a positive way.
Finding activities that older kids will want to participate with can be a challenge sometimes. They may not see the purpose of the activity in the moment, but these types of activities can have a long-lasting impression on their lives. That is why we found some FREE activities that you can try with older kids whether you are a parent, teacher, therapist, or professional to help you find just the right activity for your teen.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure statement for further details.
FREE Self-Esteem Activities for older kids
Some of these free activities are on the website Teachers Pay Teachers where you will need to create a free account to be able to download these worksheets. Click the titles of the activities below to be taken to the free download!
Thinking about your teen dating can be scary for some parents, but we want to help make this process a little easier for you. Navigating the social aspects of dating can be difficult for teens with autism. Just like many other social skills many individuals may need to be taught specific skills to help them with dating. Dating can be a complex skill to learn.
Always listen to your teen and watch for their desire to want to date. Always go off of what your teen is telling you and showing you. Don't force your teen to do something if they are not interested or don't want to do it. Everyone has their own preferences and show interest in dating at different times in their lives.
*This post may contain affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but we may earn a commission. Please see our disclosure statement for further details.
How can you tell if your teen is ready for dating?
All teens develop at different rates and have different interests in dating. Follow your teens lead, if you see that they are showing interest or asking you questions about dating help them through this complex situation. Pay attention to their nonverbal behaviors as well to help you decide if they are interested in dating.
A teen's social maturity may not be the same as their physical maturity. Some teens may feel the physical desire for dating and sexuality before the social competence for dating. If your teen is asking you questions about their physical appearance/changes and their desire for sexuality be open to talk with them about these topics. Talk to your teen in a way that makes sense to them. If they learn best through direct concrete answers or through pictures/videos, help provide these opportunities for them to learn about the changes in their bodies.
Be Proactive and have Open Dialogue with your Teen about Dating and Sexuality
Sex and dating are very complex social situations. If you think your teen may be sexually active or dealing with opportunities for sexual activity don't delay these conversations. It is important that we can protect your teen as best as you can from getting into unsafe situations. It is crucial to talk about safe sex and helping them to understand how pregnancy can occur. If you feel uncomfortable about talking about these situations with your teen is there someone you can reach out to for help? You could reach out to your teen's doctor especially if you have concerns about health related questions.
Provide role playing opportunities to practice dating situations
One way to practice some of the complex social situations involved with dating would be to role play common situations. You could also try social stories, social scripts, modeling appropriate behaviors, video modeling, or an acting class. Social situations that you could role play and talk about for dating could be:
how to compliment
how to show interest in someone
how to talk with a peer you like
how to read nonverbal behavior
when to smile
how to use good manners
how to be respectful of another person
how to show affection
appropriate physical touch
how to stay safe
safety in public areas
Have open conversations about how to stay safe with dating
We want to do whatever we can to help our teen stay safe and not get taken advantage of in this complex social situation. Discuss who, when, where, and how to ask someone out.
Who is appropriate for you to ask out?
Someone around your age
who shows interest in you
is nice to you
talks to you
someone you like
When is it appropriate to ask someone out?
After you have gotten to know someone better
When you have noticed that you both seem to be interested in each other
Where is it appropriate to ask someone out?
Usually in a more private setting when not a lot of people are around
typically it is best to do it in person, but you can also call someone on the phone.
Texting may not be as a personal way to ask someone out
How do you ask someone out?
in person you can ask if they are free at a certain time that you could go to a place of mutual interest
make sure to get contact information to confirm the date, time, and location ahead of time
How do you show appropriate touch during a date?
Make sure to talk about safe and appropriate physical touch
talk about how to hold hands, give a hug, or a kiss
talk about inappropriate types of physical touch and how to read body cues and signs of how someone may like or not like the type of touch.
Discuss different levels of intimacy
Help them understand the difference between hand holding, hugging, kissing, and more intimate types of touching to help them stay safe.
Talk about the steps/routine of a typical date
Make sure your teen knows when and where the date will take place
how they will get to the location
what they may do at the location (dinner, movie, bowling, party)
Help them understand appropriate personal hygiene cares and dressing skills
Dating is a complex social situation
We need to remember that dating is complex and overwhelming social situation. This may cause our teen frustration, anxiety, fear, or anger. Please be aware of how your teen is feeling about dating and be ready to help them through this situation as it pertains to them. Help them understand that rejection may also be apart of dating and how to help them through this as well. Help them understand that someone may not be interested in them even though they are interested. Or that someone may be too busy to date. It can be impossible to understand why someone may not be interested in you and this could be a hard skill for some teens to cope with.
Dating can be a positive situation and we need to stay proactive and help our teens through these unique situations. The more we can support our teen's desires for dating and have open dialogue about the social situations it can be seen as a rewarding and positive experience.
Do you have further questions about dating? We would love to hear your advice and comments below.
Get over 50 different social skills for teens that you can help them learn.
Social Skills for Teens
Our family understands some of the difficulties that can come with teaching social skills. We are working everyday to help teach my brother specific social skills. We have tried different ways to help him learn these skills. We have used modeling behaviors, talking through different situations, social stories, social situation cards, and videos to show the different social skills.
We have created a list of 50+ social skills that we feel are valuable for teens to learn as they start their transition into adulthood. We hope you can find this list helpful!
*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure for further details.
Get the Free Life Skills Year-at-a-Glance Plan
Click HERE or click the image below to get the FREE Life Skills curriculum teaching ideas for each month! I have included a Social Skills Curriculum filled with teaching ideas for each month!
50+ Social Skills for Teens to Learn
how to talk with peers
asking for help
how to stay safe in new situations
how to tell someone no
resisting peer pressure
problem solving skills
understanding how my actions affect others
understanding my own feelings
being able to understand feelings of peers
how to handle conflict with others
how to work as a group/team
how to listen to someone speaking
understanding nonverbal body language
understanding safety with social media/technology
safety with sex
safety with dating
how to talk about your own interests with peers
when it is appropriate to laugh/cry
when it is good to smile
how to show respect to others
how to show interest in what another person is talking about
how you would act around a “boss or authority figure”
how to talk with friends
how to act when we get mad
how to walk away from situations
how to act in a public area vs private area
how to act at a party
how to talk about your own strengths/weaknesses
how to ask for directions
how to call 911 if you are in danger
how to talk with or ask questions with doctors (medical appointments)
how to make a phone call to schedule something
how to talk on the phone
what your own body language looks like when talking with someone
how to go to the grocery store to purchase groceries
what to do when you are in danger
what to do if there was an active shooter (I wish I didn’t even have to think about this situation)
what to do if you don’t feel well (sick)
how to have a conversation with someone you don’t know
how to speak up in a group
how to appropriately text someone on the phone
how to appropriately post information on social media
how to travel safely
how to stay on topic
how to get along with people you may not like
waiting in a line
Are there any social skills you would like us to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!
There are various ways we can help teens learn social skills. We all learn in different ways. We need to remember to have patience and kindness when working on these skills. Some social skills come easy to some and not for others. Be respectful and kind when working on these skills. Here are a list of ideas on ways you can work on social skills.
Model appropriate social behavior
Practice the social skills with adults and peers
Talk through different situations
Create social stories or social scripts for the situations
Become involved in social groups
Become involved in acting groups
Become involved in team building groups or high interest activities with peers
Participate in sports activities
Watch videos, showing how to work on the social skills
What are some ways you have been able to work on social skills?
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