Many children with social skills difficulties require support and instruction throughout the summer months in areas such as friendship-making, manners, self-control, social problem-solving, feelings management, organization, conversation skills, play skills, the “hidden curriculum”, etc.

While some children lack these skills, others have acquired them but struggle to use the skills appropriately. Often, these children avoid social situations or may try and struggle. Thus, the team should collaborate and discuss additional supports and services to help the child.

For some children, Extended School Year (E.S.Y.) services are needed. The Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.) team determines whether the child requires programming. E.S.Y services are based upon the child’s needs, their progress throughout the year, the likelihood of regression of skills, and many other factors.

There should be careful planning to ensure E.S.Y. programming is aligned with best practices. When considering a summer program to teach social skills, one should learn about the program’s approaches, skills targeted, how progress is monitored, and expectations for generalization. Staff should have training and experience working with children who have social skills difficulties.

It is important to review the program’s daily schedule, looking for direct social skills instruction and infusion throughout the day, sports/recreational activities, and opportunities for creative and child-directed activities. Staff members should provide frequent feedback, behavior-specific praise, activity and/or tangible rewards. Strategies should be shared with parents to transfer skills across environments.  And with all quality programs, there should be on-going data collection to ensure accountability for the student’s progress and to evaluate performance. 

Director, Behavior Therapy Associates

Executive Director, HI-STEP Summer Social Skills Program