Why Aren't Schools Teaching Social Skills?

Do your child's weak social skills affect his academic progress, school performance, and overall education? If so, why isn't the school more concerned with them?
Success at School | posted by Michelle Davis

"My child is never invited to birthday parties."

"She doesn't have any friends, but her teacher offers only vague suggestions."

"He needs social skills in life, but the school says it can't provide instruction."

"The school called again asking me to pick up my child because of problems with peers."

The fact of the matter is, making friends at school is not an added bonus or a special treat — it is an absolute must for every child, particularly those with learning differences that make social skills tough to master. Building relationships is a vital life skill — one for which schools should be providing interventions, supports, and instruction. Here are some ways to get educators to help.

QUESTION: We are reportedly told that social and behavioral skills are a better determinant of lifelong success than are academic skills. If that's true, why do schools resist providing social skills instruction?

Which ANSWER have you heard before?

1. The parent is making up the whole problem and the child does have friends at school.

2. The parent is asking the school to handle social skills, without connecting the child's entitlement to a free appropriate public education.

3. The child has poor social skills, but still gets really good grades on his report card.

4. The child has excellent social skills, but does not use them in school.

5. Other? (Please comment on this blog!)

To effectively sort out what your child needs, here are some guiding questions for parents to answer before going to the school for help:

- How does your child's weak social skills affect his academic progress, school performance, and overall education?

- Are your child's weak social skills likely to impair his ability to lead an independent life by, for example, functioning in college, getting a job, or living on his own?

- Do your child's weak social skills create emotional problems that adversely affect his education? A common example: Conflicts at lunch create anxiety, leading to discipline problems and time out of the classroom (without learning or instruction).

- Do your child's weak social skills affect his ability to participate in groups that are doing an academic task? Does he have difficulty taking turns, staying on topic, sharing group materials, participating in discussions and brainstorming, taking on roles or jobs in a group, or making meaningful contributions? This, of course, includes those challenging group projects!

Use these talking points to make the best case for social-skills instruction, pragmatic language intervention, or even development of friendships. These are the relevant issues for any school meeting a free appropriate public education (FAPE) entitlement. That means that we can attach appropriate social services to the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.

Let's face it: The school may not care if your child has friends. But the school will care if your child is not making progress in the curriculum, which often includes a social component such as working in groups or problem solving with others.

Take your request to the next level by checking out the common core curricula across grade levels.

See how it incorporates social skills, analytic skills, problem solving and innovation. One could argue that children need to interact with each other effectively to accomplish these life goals. Once your child starts to get support for these academically-related social skills, friendships are sure to follow.

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