DEVELOPING SOCIAL SKILLS: OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE POST-SCHOOL OUTCOMES

Michelle Kalos, Michelle Oja, and the NTACT Knowledge Development Team

University of Northern Colorado, Indiana Department of Education, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Having social skills in high school is a predictor of postsecondary education and employment success for students with disabilities (Test et al., 2009). Social skills are defined as “behaviors and attitudes that facilitate communication and cooperation and include skills such as understanding social conventions, social problem solving when engaged in social interaction, body language, speaking, listening, responding, verbal, and written communication” (Rowe et al., 2015).

For students with disabilities, explicit instruction and experiences in developing social skills are often necessary for students to realize the benefits in postsecondary community living, education, and employment. Research indicates that students with disabilities who engage in community-based training, including experience in real-world environments focused on the development of social skills, are more likely to be employed (White & Weiner, 2004). School to work transition programs can also provide social skills instruction and practice necessary for postsecondary employment (Benz et al., 1997).

To increase students’ social skills, practitioners can:

· Assist students in developing social skills across environments

· Incorporate parent and student input into social skills development

Social skills lessons should…

· Include student input and collaboration

· Define and model skills, student identification of areas or environments where they would need the skills, and role-play and feedback to enhance generalization of the skills (Walker & Barry, 2018).

State & Local Examples — North Dakota

Peace Garden and Northern Plains Special Education Units in rural North Dakota have implemented social skills groups to provide opportunities for students to grow socially, model and practice healthy relationships, build self-esteem, and have succeeded in establishing and maintaining friendships. Peace Garden’s Social Group includes middle and high school students who meet twice a month after school in different locations, including college campuses, to engage in games and share a meal together. The Bowling Group also meets twice each month. Finally, the Transition Group meets twice monthly during the school day in a church in the community, attended by students from 5 area middle and high schools. The session begins with an ice breaker that pertains to the topic for the day, lunch, and group activities. This group's focus is on developing workplace readiness skills and social skills. They incorporate sessions on communication, disability awareness, soft skills, and advocacy. The schools may provide .5 high school credits for Transition Group participation for the year.

Northern Plains Minot Public Schools Teens’ Night Out [TNO] was established 19 years ago and the purpose was solely to provide social opportunities for students to practice their skills and develop friendships. It serves students ages 13–21 and some of our previous participants are mentors in the program. It is also held twice a month (year-round — including summer) in the evenings and frequently attended by support staff or family members with the student participants. During fall and spring semesters, students from Minot State University take part in the group by volunteering or providing activities. Each of the groups is funded by the local special education unit. The schools provide transportation for their students and staff to bring them. Transportation for TNO is the family’s responsibility.

NTACT Resources

· NTACT — Effective Practices and Predictors Matrix — https://transitionta.org/system/files/epmatrix/EBPP_Matrix_Links_Updated_11-8-19_0.pdf

· Social Skills Correlated with Improved Education, Employment, and Independent Living Outcomes — Explains the essential characteristics of social skills and where to learn more information.

· Using Simulations to Teach Social Skills — Explains this evidence-based practice and includes references.

· Using Self-Management to Teach Social Skills — Explains this the research-based/ promising practice, including references and information and details on student populations with whom it has been implemented.

· Using Role Play to Teach Workplace Social Skills — Lesson plan starter that explains how to use role plays to teach workplace social skills.

Additional Resources:

· Transition TN provides a comprehensive, searchable list of social skill assessments at Transition TN Assessment Database.

· Indiana Resource Center for Autism provides resources for online/virtual instruction and practice of social skills.

· Common Sense Education has compiled a list of apps students of all ages can use to monitor and practice social skills throughout daily life.

· PBIS.org — Teaching Social-Emotional Competencies within a PBIS Framework, https://www.pbis.org/resource/teaching-social-emotional-competencies-within-a-pbis-framewor

References

Benz, M. R., Yovanoff, P., & Doren, B. (1997). School-to-work components that predict postschool success for students with and without disabilities. Exceptional children, 63(2), 151–165.

McIntosh, K., & MacKay, L. D. (2008). Enhancing generalization of social skills: Making social skills curricula effective after the lesson. Beyond Behavior, 18(1), 18–25.

McMillan, J. H., & Hearn, J. (2008). Student self-assessment: The key to stronger student motivation and higher achievement. Educational Horizons, 87(1), 40–49.

Roessler, R. T., Brolin, D. E., & Johnson, J. M. (1990). Factors affecting employment success and quality of life: A one year follow-up of students in special education. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 13(2), 95–107.

Rowe, D. A., Alverson, C. Y., Unruh, D. K., Fowler, C. H., Kellems, R., & Test, D. W. (2015). A Delphi study to operationalize evidence-based predictors in secondary transition. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 38(2), 113–126. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2165143414526429

Test, D. W., Mazzotti, V. L., Mustian, A. L., Fowler, C. H., Kortering, L., & Kohler, P. (2009). Evidence-based secondary transition predictors for improving postschool outcomes for students with disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 32(3), 160–181. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2165143415588047

Walker, J. D., & Barry, C. (2018). Assessing and supporting social-skill needs for students with high-incidence disabilities. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 51(1), 18–30.

White, J., & Weiner, J. S. (2004). Influence of least restrictive environment and community based training on integrated employment outcomes for transitioning students with severe disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 21(3), 149–156.

NTACT:C is a Technical Assistance and Dissemination project, funded by the OSEP and the RSA, Cooperative Agreement Number H326E140004.