Social skills improve learning and safety


The school psychologist who authored the following article needs to be cloned and distributed to every school district with the authority to implement appropriate changes. lol

NASP Communiqué, Vol. 36, #2
October 2007

Good Social Skills Improve Learning and Safety: Tips for Parents
From Your School Psychologist

Good social skills are critical to success in life. The extent to which children possess these skills can influence their academic performance, behavior, social and family relationships, and even school safety. Social skills encompass a range of behaviors, such as waiting your turn, asking to use something, joining a group, managing anger or frustration, respecting other people, not interrupting, asking for help, and understanding the social cues of other children.

Most children pick up positive skills through their everyday interactions with adults and peers. However, because of increased negative influences in life today such as media violence and pressures on the family, it is important that teachers and parents reinforce this casual learning with direct and indirect instruction. This is particularly true given the critical role that social skills play in maintaining a positive school environment and reducing school violence. Aggressive or disruptive behavior often occurs because children do not know how to express themselves or respond to classmates appropriately.

Effective social skills programs involve parents and teachers working together. They can be implemented at a school-wide, classroom, family, and individual level and always emphasize teaching a desired skill, as opposed to punishing negative behaviors. Adults can reinforce positive socials skills a number of ways.

Praise children when they behave correctly. For children who have particular difficulty, it may be necessary to intentionally “catch” them doing the right thing or create situations in which they can make a good choice.
Offer alternatives to inappropriate behavior. Explain why the child’s first choice is incorrect and have them practice the appropriate skills before going on with their activity.
Model good social skills. Children learn through observation. Adults can provide important examples of positive behaviors by how they interact with each other and, importantly, with the children themselves.

Create a culture that fosters good social skills. School and home environments can affect a child’s ability to learn and perform good social skills. For instance, establishment of specific routines for coming into class and getting settled may prevent a student from becoming unruly in the morning. Schools can also provide visual reminders, such as posters and key phrases, throughout the building. Children may have difficulty getting prepared for school each day if there is not a scheduled and structured plan of success.

Communicate between home and school. Schools should include parents and other caregivers in social skills training and activities so that they can reinforce skills taught at school. They should also work together to develop individualized strategies for a child who has a specific issue or need.
Focus on all age groups. Adults sometimes overlook inappropriate behavior in young children because they believe that they will “grow out of it.” On the contrary, the earlier children start to learn good social skills, the fewer problems they will have as they get older.

Avoid a “one size fits all” approach. Most children will need a combination of strategies that are matched to their particular needs and backgrounds. For example, students who speak English as a second language might need intensive social skill instruction to promote acculturation and peer acceptance. Children with disabilities might need adaptive curriculum and learning strategies.

Schools across the country are discovering that integrating socials skills into the curriculum has a significant impact on the quality of the school experience. Using many of the same techniques at home and in school results in both settings becoming more positive. We see improved behavior in the classroom, reduced conflicts at recess and lunch, and an increase in students’ ability to resolve problems on their own. This translates into fewer referrals for discipline problems and a better learning environment for all students.

Parents who have questions about their child or the social skills program should contact their child’s teacher, the school counselor, or the school psychologist providing you this information.

NASP Resources Available Online
NASP has a number of resources available to assist families and educators in helping to create school and home environments that promote positive social interactions.

Adapted from: “Social Skills: Promoting Positive Behavior, Academic Success, and School Safety” Fact Sheet, NASP, 2002.

Note: This handout article is available for NASP members online to adapt and post on their webpage.


New Member
This is really good stuff! I am putting it in my IEP folder for next spring.
Our district doesn't seem to get how simple teaching social skills can be.

Thanks Shelia


Based on my son's lack of ability to appropriately respond to social skills training, I tend to think social skills may be one of the harder things to teach. It would have been much better to start getting real serious about the training early on rather than waiting until 3rd/4th grades to get serious about it.

He's made huge strides, but he's still a work in progress. lol

I do not think that many schools realize how very important social skills are to a student's success at school though, nor how early intervention could help the educators -- not just the student and student body.


New Member
I'm finding this discussion a lot more interesting since I got a letter today from the school in response to my note that there were no goals in my son's IEP to improve peer relationships. They wrote, "Relationships with adults generally develop before relationships with peers. The building blocks for positive peer relationships are addressed in his IEP goals in the goals to improve relationships with adults".

This is a kid who has NO trouble communicating and interacting with adults but will punch the lights out of any kid who teases, bumps, or just annoys him. And he doesn't need peer relationship goals after 10 suspensions in 2 years for aggression with other students. Sigh.



The building blocks for positive peer relationships are addressed in his IEP goals in the goals to improve relationships with adults.

Scary how the author would think a half-way intelligent person would buy this type double-talk.

Goals and objectives are measurable.

Examples found at

Social Skills

III. John is able to respond to "yes/no" and other simple questions "How are you?" and "How old are you?" and "Who is your teacher?" He still has inconsistent eye contact with the person speaking, and does participate in turn taking activities with minimal assistance.

IV. A. Annual Goal
John will demonstrate improved social skills.

B. Short-Term Objectives
1. John will look at the person speaking/signing with minimal prompts 90% of the time. (as his Vision Therapy progresses)
2. John will look at the person speaking/signing without prompts 60% of the time.
3. John will address all adults and students he regularly comes in contact with by name, and will use appropriate pleasantries (please, thank you, etc.) with fading models/prompts 65% of the time.
4. John will raise his hand in class with fading prompts/models 75% of the time.
5. John will participate in turn taking during group activities with minimal assistance 90% of the time.
6. During connect, John will learn the name of a "connect peer partner (student)" and interact with that student using the skills listed above with minimal assistance 75% of the time
7. John will take a "signed/verbal" message from one person to another, and deliver the message correctly, 75% of the time.
8. During connect, John will participate in group activities and games with minimal assistance from a connect-peer partner, with 60% compliance.
9. John will self-initiate a request for things he wants that he has visual access to with 90% accuracy.

Social Skills: Promoting Positive Behavior, Academic Success, and School Safety

Good social skills are critical to successful functioning in life. These skills enable us to know what to say, how to make good choices, and how to behave in diverse situations. The extent to which children and adolescents possess good social skills can influence their academic performance, behavior, social and family relationships, and involvement in extracurricular activities. Social skills are also linked to the quality of the school environment and school safety.

While most children pick up positive skills through their everyday interactions with adults and peers, it is important that educators and parents reinforce this casual learning with direct and indirect instruction. We must also recognize when and where children pick up behaviors that might be detrimental to their development or safety. In the past, schools have relied exclusively on families to teach children important interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. However, increased negative societal influences and demands on family life make it imperative that schools partner with parents to facilitate this social learning process. This is particularly true today given the critical role that social skills play in maintaining a positive school environment and reducing school violence.
Consequences of Good Social Skills

With a full repertoire of social skills, students will have the ability to make social choices that will strengthen their interpersonal relationships and facilitate success in school. Some consequences of good social skills include:

* Positive and safe school environment.
* Child resiliency in the face of future crises or other stressful life events.
* Students who seek appropriate and safe avenues for aggression and frustration.
* Children who take personal responsibility for promoting school safety.

Consequences of Poor Social Skills

Students with poor social skills have been shown to:

* Experience difficulties in interpersonal relationships with parents, teachers, and peers.
* Evoke highly negative responses from others that lead to high levels of peer rejection. Peer rejection has been linked on several occasions with school violence.
* Show signs of depression, aggression and anxiety.
* Demonstrate poor academic performance as an indirect consequence.
* Show a higher incidence of involvement in the criminal justice system as adults.


New Member
Thanks so much Sheila! You just saved me a TON of work. I hadn't had time to start digging around for stuff like this - and how can they argue with info coming from the National Association of School Psychologists?

This letter they just sent me was so full of b.s. They tried to tell me that his goal of learning 5 "calming strategies" in Occupational Therapist (OT) was the same as a goal for reducing discipline referrals. Sigh. You'd all be appalled at this IEP that was pre-written before the meeting. Oh - here's another good one. They had a goal for 1-10 add/subtract math facts at 75%. My son is in 4th grade. I argued that the goal should be 100% since they stated in the PLAAFP that he knew them. In the reply letter they tell me that 100% is not realistic and for practical purposes is unattainable!! She even stated that although she knows her math facts, she still makes errors and could not expect any more from my difficult child. Double sigh. Thank goodness this woman isn't actually TEACHING my son!

While you are reading - I found out that the compliance officer for the district was doing an audit earlier this week on our school's IEPs. I sent her an email late last night asking if the results of the audit were available through Freedom of Information Act. Does anyone know if they are? She knows how unhappy I am with this IEP and I gave her plenty of "food for thought" before she did the audit.

Again - thanks for the help!


The junior high in our SD (I can't speak for elementary or middle school because if it existed it was never offered to us) has different levels of social skills 'training' depending on the student's need. They have a social studies class for students that need a lot of help in that with social skills. For those that still need some help, but maybe not as much as one on the autism spectrum, for example, the guidance counselor develops groups of students for special activities.

Of course, now that difficult child would be in a school where this is offered, she is not attending traditional school. But, I'm glad to know that my SD is doing something. I still communicate with the Prinicpal (she was VP last year and was promoted...I'm so happy for her and the school) and difficult child's SpEd teacher from last year. I think I'll forward this information to them, as well as to the District's Student Services Director.

Thanks for this info, Sheila.