I often wish I could clone myself. I also wish I could clone my students. Keep reading before you think I’m completely nuts. Yes we all love our students but the idea of doubling our caseload I’m sure isn’t on anyone’s wishlist. But my cloning idea is really steaming from how much work our kids have to do. They could have a complete school day filled with only academic work. Then another complete day filled with only life skills activities. And then a third day comprised completely of social skill instruction. Now how the heck am I supposed to fit 3 full days of instruction into one little school day. #cloning…
Our kids have so much to work on because skills that other children pick up on their own, our students may need some specific instruction on. Many teenagers observe their peers and mimic the “cool” way to greet each other. They fist pump, do the discrete eye contact/head nod combo, or say “hey.” They have learned those responses on their own. Our student may know how to greet others but he hasn’t learned more age appropriate ways to greet his peers and is the only 15 year old giving every handshakes and a full “good morning, nice to see you” in the hallways. If that’s the way he wants to greet everyone – cool. I am all for individual autonomy. But I also want to make sure he knows and had learned other methods of greeting as well.
Social skills instruction is such a majorly important topic that it deserves it’s own month. Heck, I could probably dedicate this whole blog to only social skills instruction and not run out of ideas or topics for quite a while. Social skills are just as necessary and imperative as academic learning and life skills instruction.
If you are leaving social skills instruction out of your classroom teaching and thinking the SLP will pick it up during her 30 minutes a week she sees your kiddos, you are doing your students a huge disservice. Social skills are not solely the responsibility of the SLP or social worker. You should be working with those professionals on increasing the social skills of all of your learners.
Why are social skills so important?
Social skills are so important because we don’t live in a bubble. Almost every interaction involves other people from buying groceries to taking the bus to going to the doctor. We are constantly expected to interact with people. Without even thinking, the way we act is shaped by avoiding social punishers (ie. getting weird looks), getting access to something we want, and gaining social approval (smiles, conversation, etc.). If our students are unable to keep up, they are going to lose out on so many valuable opportunities and be limited in their functional independence.
This month we will explore everything social skills! That is a super wide topic. Social skills includes everything from how you greet your peers to having conversations. Since our students are all so different – how we approach social skills will be very different. Our goal is always the same – to get our students to their highest level of independence. That independence includes being able to interact with other people! Let’s get socializing!