Monday, December 10, 2012

Social-skills programs for teens -- tips?

One of our life skills coaches is interested in links you may have to social-skills programs that we might be able to adapt for youth aged 15 to 21 with a variety of physical and developmental disabilities.

Has your teen participated in a social-skills program that worked well?

Please post any recommendations or links in the comments. Thanks! Louise


Social skills programs generally don't work. They are artificial scenarios that only fill the coffers of the organizations and companies that offer them. While they offer some structure and usually follow a curriculum, they are not an effective way of teaching skills and building relationships. Our experience was that the skills taught during the one hour sessions over a twelve week block were not generalized and transferred to outside the program no matter how hard we worked at it. Parents think they are doing something good for their child and often do not realize until almost the end that the program is mainly a waste of time. The friendships that started to develop during these sessions unfortunately do not continue outside of the program. The best way to learn social skills is in real life situations over time involving people of differing abilities in different settings. This can be carried out in school when there are adults who care. It might involve a student club, sports team or fundraising activity. It can be carried over in extracurriculars at the end of the school day. We had a high school track coach who took a special interest in our child and acted as a social facilitator during practices and at track meets. Our daughter's social skills blossomed because she was doing something she really enjoyed and others with the same interest showed a keen interest in her and they became social. This cannot happen in a social skills program run by workers who will only be in the child's life for the duration of the program. My recommendation is don't expect social skills programs to be the only answer. I do believe that life coaches and mentors are a good thing. They can play an ongoing and supportive role in a teen's life. We have had positive experiences with them involving our child.

Sorry that I'm not positive about social skills programs. Maybe others have had successful experiences with a social skills program.


One of my top recommendations is this site called "Real social skills for autonomous people" on Tumblr.

Real social skills for autonomous people

This has a lot of material which can be talked about in a workshop form.

For instance: parties, sex, piety and decency.

Thanks for your insights Anonymous. They are important.

And thanks for the link Adelaide!

Hope we hear from some more folks.

The school I work at uses Social Thinking ( While not necessarily a 'social skills' curriculum, I think it is incredibly helpful for students to learn to think about others and how their actions affect others and cause others to have thoughts about them. I would recommend checking it out.

Thanks for the tip Abby! I've passed it along and will also check out the website. Happy New Year!