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Key elements of a social skills curriculum

Resources for teaching social skills

Key Elements of a Social Skills Curriculum
Instruction in social skills involves teaching adults how to interact with others appropriately. Although social skills instruction is not typically considered part of academic literacy, it is an area in which many adults with learning disabilities need assistance. For example, the top five skills that Fortune 500 companies have listed as desirable in employees involve social skills: teamwork, problem solving, interpersonal skills, oral communication, and listening.

Key Elements
Social skills curricula should teach the learner how to

  • interpret a social situation,
  • select select appropriate social skills,
  • apply skills fluently,
  • modify a social skill as a situation changes, and then
  • integrate a variety of social skills to meet the demands of a variety of life situations.

The following list, taken from Social Skills for Daily Living from American Guidance Associates, provides examples of the areas that might be targeted:

Conversation and Friendship Skills

  • actively listening: making sure one understands what's being said by listening and asking questions
  • greeting someone by saying "hello" and asking a question
  • ending a conversation in a friendly way
  • answering questions appropriately, honestly, and completely
  • asking questions for clarification, for more information, or to start a conversation
  • introducing oneself: saying one's name clearly and shaking hands, if appropriate
  • joining conversations appropriately, not being rude, and not talking when others are talking

Getting Along Skills

  • accepting thanks and compliments appreciatively
  • thanking others and giving compliments sincerely
  • apologizing for mistakes and offering to make amends appropriately
  • accepting "no" for an answer without arguing
  • resisting peer pressure: gracefully saying no to friends when they suggest an undesirable activity and/or suggesting an alternative activity
  • accepting accepting criticism: listening and understanding criticism without anger and explaining how one will try to change what's being criticized, if appropriate
  • giving criticism in a calm manner

Problem-solving Skills

  • listening to instructions and carrying them out accurately and in a pleasant way
  • asking for help when needed
  • asking for feedback and suggestions for improvement
  • giving solid reasons for doing or believing something
  • solving problems: analyzing a problem, developing solutions, choosing the best alternative, planning, and carrying out the solution
  • persuading others to agree with something or do something
  • negotiation: when in a conflict, coming to a compromise and reaching an agreement by engaging in a calm discussion
  • appropriately joining group activities
  • initiating activities with others and making the needed arrangements
  • helping others when needed (without doing the task oneself)

Appropriate Use of Social Skills Curricula
Adults with learning disabilities often have difficulty learning and using social skills. Difficulties with short-term memory, attention, expressive and receptive communication, and an inability to interpret facial expressions or gestures may predispose adults with learning disabilities to poor social skills. However, social skills can be taught so that adults with learning disabilities not only possess the skills and strategies necessary to function in everyday life but also face less of the discouragement and isolation often created by poor social skills. With appropriate instruction, an adult can develop the social skills necessary to be more successful in all aspects of daily life. Social skills instruction may be a priority for some adults who are concerned with maintaining employment or a circle of friends.

Resources for Teaching Social Skills

It’s about more than learning: How learning disabilities affect social skills and relationships
This article discusses the difficulties with social interactions faced by many individuals with learning disabilities.

Social Skills and Adults with Learning Disabilities
Overview of the difficulties in acquiring and using social skills experienced by some adults with L.D.

Dealing with Learning Disabilities in Relationships
Great tips for dealing with the difficulties that can be experienced by persons with learning disabilities

Finding Friends & Persuading People: Teaching the Skills of Social Interaction
Written primarily for parents teaching their children, this article is also useful for teachers and coaches of adults with the need for better social skills.


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