4 Key Areas in Developing Effective Social Skills Programming

#2 Curriculum Selection & Implementation

The second key in developing effective social skills programming is selecting a well-designed social skills program that will address your childs deficits. The good news is that the results of the social skills assessment should help guide the decision-making and selection process.

What should I look for in a social skills curriculum or program?
What does a classroom-based social skills curriculum LOOK LIKE?

There are numerous kinds of social skills curricula available on the market today. There are a number of published social skills curricula. (see List of Resources at the end of this article.)

Using a validated social skills curriculum means that the curriculum has been research tested and has been found to be effective for improving social skills. Implementing a social skills curriculum will require time and effort on the part of many individuals that work with a child----its to everyones benefit that the curriculum selected is one that you can have confidence in for bringing about the changes in your childs social skills and behavior. A validated curriculum can provide you with that confidence because it has been shown to be validated (i.e., shown to work!).

Social skills curricula are focused on social skill development in the following common areas: pragmatic language development, flexibility in managing tasks, settings, etc., attentional skills, adaptive behavior, academic.

The materials used to teach social skills should be as similar as possible to materials needed in real life---this leads to a greater transfer of skills because the instructor can tailor the lesson to the needs of the class/student.

Depending on the assessment results, social skill programming can occur on a daily, multi-day, or weekly basis; it is most important that programming be increased or reduced in duration based on developmental level, attention span, interest, & maturity level.

How will a social skills curriculum be implemented with my child?

Social skills curricula may be implemented in many different ways depending on the needs of the child and the target skills to be addressed. A multisystemic strategy of social skills programming can be comprised of instruction that is implemented at the district, school, classroom, and individual levels. Also, social skills programs can be conducted with whole classrooms, small groups, or on a one-on-one basis.


School-based social skills curricula:

  • Can be implemented at all levels--Early Intervention, Preschool, Elementary, Secondary, Post-secondary
  • Should include strategies to demonstrate progress ~ empirically based
  • Should include inclusionary opportunities
  • Should meet the parents needs
  • May include a home-based component
  • Should include instruction for skills that are useful at home

Often, a child will not learn social skills just from being given an opportunity to interact with peers alone.
Like any other skill (academic or athletic), they need to be taught what to do - and when to do it!

Whats the best way to teach social skills?

There are several different approaches to teaching social skills. Some children learn as a result of Incidental Teaching. This is when children learn about social skills and how to demonstrate social skills through their own observations of others and the interactions they have with others in their natural environment (e.g., reinforcement from teacher for demonstrating a particular skill). Other approaches for teaching social skills involve a target childs peer network (i.e., Peer-initiation Strategies, Peer Tutoring) whereby socially competent peers are paired with a child toward the goal of assisting the target child in developing or refining a particular skill. Some children can only learn social skills through Direct Skill Instruction. This kind of instruction involves a direct and systematic way of teaching a social skill or behavior and can involve a curriculum that is used to teach various skills. There are critical features that research has shown to be most effective in bringing about long-lasting change and improvement with this approach. Most importantly, research has found that there is a direct relationship between the amount and quality of social skills training and the amount of behavior change.


Key Features of Direct Skill Instruction