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Social Skills Key to Future Success


This'll be a light blogging week as I work on another story, but I wanted to pass this along: I have heard some parents of children with disabilities suggest that it is difficult to have "soft skills" included on their child's individualized education program. This study, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, suggests why such skills are important.

According to a University of Illinois professor who studies the sociology of education, high school sophomores who were rated by their teachers as having good social skills and work habits, and who participated in extracurricular activities in high school, made more money and completed higher levels of education 10 years later than their classmates who had similar standardized test scores but were less socially adroit and participated in fewer extracurricular activities....

“That’s not to say that academic achievement in high school doesn’t matter – it does,” [the researcher] said. “But if we only look at standardized test scores, we’re only considering part of the equation for success as an adult in a global marketplace...."

For a look at Education Week articles and online chats on special education and social skills, click here. The website is hosting an "open house" through April 8, so this is an opportunity for you to read up (and hopefully, decide to subscribe!)


Are districts taking teaching social skills seriously? Do they believe it is the school's role to teach these skills? Which schools or districts have excellent programs? "Social skills" can mean different things to different people.
The approach and material would differ if you were preparing lesson plans for the general school population versus those who need to be taught step by step conversations skills,perspective taking and what some call the hidden curriculum, what most intuitively pick up but those on the ASD spectrum need to be specifically taught.


You are right, there are some kids who need specific and explicit instruction in things that many kids "pick up" in the social realm. But, I think that there is also a broader realm of social skills that many teachers would set outside their scope of teaching. I base this on the proliferation of rules and consequences along with rising frustration that these things don't seem to arrive at kids acting as expected.

I recall a teacher who on day 1 announced to the class (while still on the playground) that they were "old enough" to come inside when the bell rang and go to class without lining up. She left my son on the playground--and believed he had "self-selected" to go to the time-out room when he didn't make it to class. Someone found him later curled up on the nurse's cot. Apparently the behavior of most of the class supported the teacher's supposition that they were "old enough" to just go to class when the bell rang. While this instance is frightening (although the teacher was highly experienced and well-regarded by her peers), it seems to be not out of the ordinary to believe that appropriate behaviors in school are the result either of simple maturity (being "old enough") or of adequate home training. True enough, some kids seem to gravitate towards the "right thing." But others seem to be clueless unless taught, and still others must engage in experiential testing of the limits to see if what they know in other situations holds true in this one.

When the teaching of social skills and behaviors is overlooked, it is easy to get into some really horrendous situations really quickly. Then teachers are exasperated and asking questions like: "well, what am I supposed to do when a student throws a chair?" Sadly, the only possibility for actually teaching skills is too often to get the kid identified and then put something into the IEP. The problem is that such IEP programs cannot succeed without a solid based of school-wide teaching underneath them. Sugai talks about this in PBIS. I always figure that one clue is always the number of kids who need intervention. If it's above 3-5%, you are really looking at more comprehensive needs that need to be shored up first.

great ideas!

I am a junior intervention specialist major, and in response to Bonnie's comment, I can say that all of my education classes have emphasized the importance of teaching social skills to students of all ages. This is something the department takes very seriously. I want my students to succeed when they move out to the "real world," and social skills are imperative to this. If a student is struggling with social skills and not learning them through observation and interaction, then I believe the teacher(s) should certainly add some instruction in this area to his or her curriculum.

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