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The Importance of Social Skill Instruction for Special Education Students

The Importance of Social Skill Instruction for Special Education Students

Kandace Madise

Everyday educators struggle to make schools a safe and positive learning environment with the focus for the most part on academics and/or test scores. There are some children who are not emotionally and socially prepared to meet these academic challenges because of emotional and/or behavioral problems. A lot of these students are in specialized special education classes. The teachers of these classes struggle to balance academic instruction and basic social skill instruction. Special education teachers also struggle to find effective resources to proactively teach needed social skills, problem solving skills, and character education. Social skills are life skills, learning to respect others is necessary to become a productive citizen.

If we as an education system do not teach our students how to cooperate, act responsibly, resolve conflicts, and demonstrate tolerance, the number of angry and aggressive students could greatly increase as well as the incidents of teasing, taunting, bullying, and physical aggression. It is important to teach children to utilize these skills while they are young and receptive. Having worked in public elementary, middle, high schools, and a non-profit residential treatment center for abused and neglected children; personal experience has taught me that it can be extremely difficult to teach social skills and conflict resolution skills especially to older students especially those with emotional/behavioral difficulties.

Social skills need to be taught consistently to children at early ages and particularly in special education classes. It is essential to expose students to social skills as they may not be educated in these essential life skills at home. Parents may not have the knowledge, time, or parenting skills to instill these basic, yet important skills. These important life and social skills are applied in school and at home thus benefiting the student, educators, parents, and the whole community. Valuable instructional time is lost managing behavior issues, teaching conflict resolution, and providing crisis intervention.

So why should we teach social skills? The ultimate goal is for teachers, parents, and administrators to begin to see students utilizing conflict resolution skills and self control as they learn the appropriate problem solving and social skills to deal with their feelings and generalize appropriate behavior across various situations. With decreasing behavior issues in the classrooms, teachers and will be able to focus more on academics and providing effective instruction while the students will begin to see success academically and behaviorally.

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