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
One area to understand when it comes to social skills are non-verbal cues in conversations.
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.