Students with social challenges can be found across the continuum. Some are in a life skills setting, receiving functional skills training and an alternate curriculum. Some are in resource/inclusion settings because they struggle to keep up with the academic demands of the classroom after about 3rd grade. Some are in gifted/talented programs and may be experts in certain areas. Regardless of their academic abilities, students with social challenges don't 'get it'. They don't understand social interactions. They don't know how to start a conversation with someone. Or advocate for themselves. They struggle with figurative language. They often exhibit behaviors that cause them to stand out. Their body posture is often more rigid. Their speech is often more formal. Sometimes they have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or a learning disability. Sometimes they have no diagnosis and don't meet the criteria for any particular disability category. Regardless of where they fall on the academic continuum or what their diagnosis may or may not be, they need help. If they haven't 'figured it out' by now, they aren't going to without support and guidance.
At SSC we don’t focus on isolated social skills. If we teach a student how to say, "Hi, how are you?", they have learned how to say that and nothing else. Instead, we function as a social coach, teaching our students how to assess and understand the social context around them in order to make decisions that lead to desired social outcomes. We teach students to observe things such as: Who is around me? What are they thinking? What am I thinking? What is expected? How does my behavior affect those around me? How does my behavior affect ME? Only by increasing social awareness can we expect more socially appropriate behavior. The end result is a person who is able to proactively create positive social outcomes instead of engaging in socially unexpected behaviors again and again.
Research has shown that social deficits create academic deficits as well. That's why we offer supports for both areas. If a child can't understand the point of view of a person in front of them, how can they understand it in a story? If they don't have the skills to infer in a social situation, how can they infer in the context of a make-believe situation? If they don't realize that we all have a different knowledge base, how can they successfully compose an essay intended for a specific audience? In addition to specific skills, social deficits are linked to executive functioning challenges like self-awareness, inhibition, emotional self-regulation, self-motivation, planning, and problem solving.
This stuff is complicated! We are here to help!
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