I think sometimes the reason we avoid really going in-depth on social skills instruction is that we just don’t know where to start. Some of our students may have so much to learn that it seems overwhelming to select a initial goal. Selecting goals in the right sequence is important here. You don’t want to start targeting staying on topic in a conversation if your student isn’t able to engage in the skills of asking questions or commenting. With every potential goal you consider, break it down into all of the little skills that you need to complete the task and make sure your student can complete those first. 

When writing an IEP goal for social skills (which you should!), be as diligent and as thorough as you are with your academic goals. Reference this post from last for tips on writing IEP goals. The tricky part with social skills IEP goals is the measurable criterion. How does someone participate in a conversation with 70% accuracy? What does that mean? Remember to use solid action verbs, specific the exact response you are looking for and be sure to include any prompting. I like a goal like this: Johnny will participate in a conversation with a peer or familiar adult by asking 2 or more on topic questions, commenting 2 or more times, and engaging in active listening behavior (facing person, appropriate personal space, and looking towards person) for a minimum of 2 minutes with no adult prompts. Yep that’s a huge goal with a ton of information included. But that’s how complex social skills work. Now in my benchmarks I can break down the specific skills and add in more prompting. You want to be thinking right away of how you re taking data on this skill. I recommend tracking number of correct responses (questions, comments, etc), minutes of appropriate behavior, or level of prompting as methods of data collection. 

Later this month we will talk about using rubrics to take data on social skills and you can work those rubrics right into your IEP goals, makes life MUCH easier. Stay tuned. 

Now how do we determine which skill to choose. Well first off you need to know what your student CAN do. Then you want to select a skill that is just slightly more challenging. You don’t wan to jump from greetings to end conversations. You want select a skill that is close to skills they can already accomplish. Here are two methods of assessments you can use: 


The ABLLS has some great sections on social skills, language, and cooperation. If you want to learn more about the ABLLS, check out this post. This assessment gives a great skill sequence and allows you to update the same assessment to show growth. 

Social Skills Checklists

Your district may have a social skills checklist you can utilize. Ask your school counselor or school psychologist for some guidance here. You can also find some good ones online. I like this one (pic to the right) and The Helpful Counselor links a great one here. Both are free! 

Once you have selected goals for each of your students, I recommend making a quick “cheat sheet” with the goals written in basic (non-IEP) english and posting in your room and giving to all related staff members (paraprofessionals, specials teachers, clinicians, etc.). Social skills are something that are going to come in all areas of your students day so make it a team effort. Johnny can work on conversation skills in the lunch line and while waiting for the bus while Suzy is working on maintaining personal space and greeting peers!

Sasha Long
Sasha Long

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