Is the School Required to Provide Social Skills Training?

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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 from Psychology Today.

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.

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. Hi,
    I would like to share with you a video:
    It’s very inspiring to see how Brandon, how was diagnosed as autistic, is now doing so well in a regular school. It give hope for all children having trouble with their social skills at school.


  4. I think the best way to go about this issue is talking to your sped. teacher. Tell her exactly what you want your child to do and since socialization is an important piece for your child’s life, have your teacher set up a socialization time with typically developing peers. One way to do is have your teacher meet with a gen.ed. teacher and ask to set up a socialization with gen.ed. peer so that they can discuss about movies to activities that they enjoy doing. “If we don’t try it, then how would we know if it works? ” is the motto that I like to go by. Maybe by setting up a socialization time, your son will be able to develop the friendship that he wants. I worked in a school setting as an instructional assistant and I worked with a child that everyone knew because they had that opportunity to meet with him and to get to know 😉

  5. Morning the best thing I have seen is involvement in a counseling group at school. Not a group targeted towards Asperger’s or students with ASD’s but just a general social skills type counseling group that is open for general education students.

    Groups about relationship skills or even bullying are good opportunities for social interaction in a controllable environment that has a greater potential for generalization into everyday skills than learning in a more isolated environment (resource room etc.).

  6. Great ideas!!

    Karen, thanks for sharing. More discussions concerning older kids with aspergers and social skills should be discussed. My friend also has her child in sports and it has made a huge difference. I think that the middle and high school kids develop their own social networks that, at times, it is hard to enter such networks. Teachers try their best but kids are complicated. While we can not force kids to include their peers–sports may open the door for kids to appreciate each other outside of the school setting.

  7. I too have an ASD 12 yr old son who doesn’t have friends to socialize w/ – just the kids of couples we socialize w/ & the 2 kids that live on our block – but on the wkends these kids all have sleepovers & other things to do. This wkend again, he was alone, waiting for someone to come home to play w/. *sigh* We printed up cards with his home info to give to kids at school, but I don’t think he ever used them. We encourage him to ask a particular kid’s phone # to arrange a play date (@12 yrs old, isn’t that too old of a term? 😉 ), but he hasn’t done that – fear of rejection if he even tries?? Next thing we should try is getting him involved in clubs/outside sports. Social skills he gets in school 30 mins/wk. He also received SS training last spring @ Childrens Specialized Hospital, NJ. Keep trying everything – it’ll come – I’m sure!

  8. How should the school provide social skills training for older high school kids with aspergers? While most peers do not bully or tease, they are not necessarily inclusive unless mandated by the teacher with reading groups, projects, etc. While some peers are accomodating, they do not extend invitations to those fun social events that are outside of school? Some kids with Aspergers are fully aware of the exclusion no matter how hard they try to make friends. It makes them sad. But, some of their behaviors can alienate possible friendships. I see such kids isolated in resource rooms for social skills training or left in the lunch room to fend for themselves resulting in them sitting alone and not included or asked to sit with anyone. It gets complicated when they get older. Any advice?

    • I have developed a social skills pilot based on experience with my son, started a social skills typical and different-abled students organization. Several pearls- all kids with social skills limitation with friend building could be introverts by nature before the ASD forced social environments could cause setbacks and anxieties; typical peers should get a cool intro to what makes those that look normal have a hidden medical issue causing them to be different. Knowledge builds support and the differently abled learn to interact and feel supported in a safe environment.

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