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Is the School Required to Provide Social Skills Training?

by Wrightslaw

My daughter with autism needs help with social skills. Her peers avoid and tease her so she has stopped trying to approach them. She gets 90 minutes of social skills counseling a month. I think she needs to learn “hands on” in class, lunch, or recess, not in the “office.”

Is the school required to provide social skills training?  Would this be considered a related service?

Here’s an easy to read description about social skills.

Social skill is not a “service” but a functional skill necessary for daily living activities. Learn what the IDEA, the federal regulations, and the Commentary say about Present Levels of Functional Performance and IEP goals for functional skills.

Read Pat Howey’s article What You Need to Know About IDEA: Present Levels of Functional Performance and Functional Goals in IEPs.

Your child’s IEP must include a description of her Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance. This means what her strengths and weaknesses are – both in academics and in functional areas like social skills.

If your child has “functional needs” the school must meet these and address these needs with goals in the IEP.

Questions to Ask

Remember, you are part of the IEP team. You have input about your child’s needs and what services may be needed to meet these needs.

  • Does your daughter have challenges in the social skills area?
  • Is her weakness in social skills accurately described in the Present Levels?
  • Does her IEP include goals about how the school will meet these challenges?
  • Do the goals meet her needs?
  • Is she making measurable progress toward these goals?

You need to request a meeting of the IEP team to discuss your concerns and to review and revise the IEP.

More than likely, you are correct. 90 minutes of counseling a month is probably not what your daughter needs to help her learn to interact with friends and react appropriately to teasing or bullying.

You’ll find more help in Chapter 4 of Wrightslaw: All About IEPs.  Turn to page 29 for information and answers to questions on Present Levels of functional performance and functional IEP goals.

To find out more about “related services” read this definition of Related Services in IDEA.

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9 Comments on "Is the School Required to Provide Social Skills Training?"


Hi from a former (still certified) school psych and current educational consultant.
Few ideas. One is to look at who is in the group– sometimes it’s mandated that it’s all sp-ed, sometimes it’s gen ed. I actually don’t necessarily think it’s the worst idea to group kids with similar social skills deficits b/c maybe they will have an easier time becoming friends. If you include high-functioning kids, e.g. gen-ed, you will get different benefits but I do think that, as kids get older, it’s appropriate to group according to where they feel they fit in.

Secondly, I like the idea of using group to explicitly instruct, then pushing into class (e.g. during group work) to observe and encourage generalization.

I have seen some independent schools for kids with social skills deficits go to project-based learning. I think it’s gold!


great information….


For Mike the Psych – My daughter was in a social skills group (lunch bunch) in 4th & 5th grade with typical peers who had minor social issues. She made no progress. All she learned was to avoid this group of kids. Once every 6 weeks wasn’t frequent enough (in my opinion). She had no goals and there was no baseline taken so there wasn’t a way to measure progress.

For Morning – Typical kids need to learn how to include Aspy types. With anti-bullying programs, they are taught to shun them rather than tease them. What’s needed are pro-social peer mentoring types of programs directed toward inclusion. The added bonus of starting this young is that when these kids are adults, they will have the skills to include Aspy adults in their places of employment.

It’ll help keep adults off of welfare rolls. A win-win program.