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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Social Skills Instruction - Topic 40

What is it?

Children with disabilities show difficulties developing social interactions in their natural environment. They do not know how to perform the social skills, thus deficits in social competence functioning leads to problem behaviors. To remediate these deficits and eliminate competing problem behaviors, social skills instruction is designed to develop children’s acquisition and performance in the area of social skills. The purpose of this training is to enable children interact with their social environment. During the social skills training, a trainer defines a particular social skill, gives examples and non-examples of this skill. To teach how to perform the social skill, the techniques such as modeling, role playing and procedures (i.e., positive reinforcement) derived from applied behavior analysis can be used. The trainer monitors the students’ progress and discusses situations in which the skill should be performed in order to generalize the obtained skill (Gresham, Sugai, & Horner, 2001).

Why is it important?

Communication and social skills are interdependent, thus establishing social interactions is crucial to develop both social and communication skills. In addition, children with disabilities can often use problem behaviors to communicate with others. They may not know how to express their needs and feelings. In this sense, the social skill training can produce meaningful outcomes for displaying appropriate social behaviors.


Gresham, F. M., Sugai, G., & Horner, R. (2001) Interpreting outcomes of social skills training for

students with high risk disabilities. Exceptional Children, 67, 331-344.

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