Social Supports

Social Skills Instruction, Social Learning, Emotional Learning

Social supports enhance students' skills in building relationships, responding to social cues and learning appropriate behaviors. For example, some students are particularly challenged with learning rules about social etiquette. These students may need help in order to identify non-verbal cues, understand facial expressions and express emotional needs when communicating with others. A type of social support such as social skills instruction explicitly teaches the student how to interact with others within their environment and respond to non-verbal cues in different contexts and situations. Other social supports such as social scripts or visual cues help remind the student prior to or during the interaction how to respond in various situations. In addition, social supports increase the opportunities for students to learn and practice essential social skills.

Implementation Tips

Communication and Social Interactions
Think about ways of incorporating increased communication through social supports especially if the student has alternative forms of communication (e.g. AAC device, communication books or boards, etc). One possibility might be to have a peer buddy work with the student on projects in class. The peer buddy might ask the student to clarify questions about a project and interact with the student as they are working on the project in class.
Teach the student how to apply the social skills such as waiting in line, approaching a teacher or having a conversation about a book at many different times and in different situations and contexts during the school day. The more contexts or environments the student has to learn and practice, the more likely the student will add the social strategy into his repertoire of social skills.
Practice, Practice, Practice
When teaching social skills, it is important for the student to continually practice the skills that she has learned whether this be through role-play, peer modeling or real situations. This will help the practiced social skill become more concrete for the learner.


A student is learning how to listen and respond when engaged in a conversation with others. During social skills group, the instructor teaches the students the steps to listening and responding. Afterwards, students practice having conversations by choosing a topic, practicing listening skills and asking questions, and sharing for five minutes about the topic. Example steps to listening and responding 1. Orient to the speaker 2. Stay on topic 3. Ask questions related to the topic (speaker choice) 4. Thank the speaker for sharing 5. When ending the conversation "See you later". (Or another transitional ending)
A student has a social narrative which is a written story about what he can do when he is feeling sad about something which might include talking to a friend, letting the teacher know, reading quietly, playing a favorite game or taking a few deep breaths. A social narrative generally identifies coping strategies for what the student can do when he finds himself in a challenging situation. The social narrative helps the student to identify alternative ways of dealing with a frustrating, challenging or novel situation.
A student is waiting in line and the teacher has a visual cue card (a picture prompt with a words) that she holds up to remind the students to keep their hands to themselves while walking in line. This helps the students to learn to have appropriate boundaries with personal space as they are heading to recess, lunch or other activities outside of the classroom.

Related Strategies