Teaching Social Skills
Appropriate behavior from students is often limited because some students lack adequate knowledge of certain social skills. Social skills are the behaviors we use to work and socialize with other people. Good, or at least adequate, social skills are necessary for successful functioning in school, in society, and on the job.
Many different types of behaviors or responses can qualify as social skills. In fact, it could be argued that specific social skills are required for any social act a person engages in throughout life.
It may be useful to distinguish among the factors that apparently control particular social skills deficits. For example, Dale is an affectionate boy with mental retardation who is disposed to hug nearly anyone he encounters. Dale continues to hug people even though he receives subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) feedback that his hugging is not always welcome. This behavior also is considered “weird” by Dale’s classmates. Dale’s behavior is apparently controlled by the social satisfaction he gains from hugging, as well as his seeming inability to distinguish when his hugging is welcome and when it is not.
Kyle, on the other hand, is a student with emotional/behavioral disorders who is often verbally abusive to other students and teachers. Kyle is aware that his behavior is not appreciated by others, and he is able to distinguish between socially appropriate and socially inappropriate speech. When Kyle believes it is in his direct interest, his speech is positive and appropriate. Kyle’s behavior, however, is apparently controlled by the attention and reinforcement he seems to receive from upsetting others with his speech.
In both cases, students exhibit inappropriate social skills. In both cases, students are unaware that it is in their own long-term interest to improve their social behavior. However, Dale does not seem to be fully aware of the effects of his social behavior, while Kyle does appear to be aware of the social consequences of his behavior. For both Dale and Kyle, social skills training is necessary.
© ______ 2007, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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