social skills



This week I would like to share three resources I recently discovered and I think are worth exploring.

#1: PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports) World is an excellent, free and user-friendly resource for addressing behavior through research-based interventions. It contains links to hundreds of interventions, supports, resources, and data collection tools, all of which are organized into a tier 1 through 3 in a prevention-oriented framework. Designed by a social worker, the purpose is to help guide users through the PBIS implementation process, starting with behavior identification and offering suggestions for interventions. It is ideal for therapists, teachers, counselors and parents.

There are 36 behavior options to choose ranging from Bullying to Poor Peer Relationships. After choosing an area of concern, it takes you through a series of options based on the user’s response, ‘Does this describe the student’? If the user’s response is ‘yes’, it offers a track with related interventions, if the response is ‘no’ it offers a different track of options.

Suggestions are offered in tiers with many simple strategies for reducing the target behavior including worksheets, games and activities. It is suggested that Tier 1 interventions are implemented for at least 6 months before moving on to Tier 2. If interventions are not working at Tier 2, then there is a Tier 3 with more intense interventions. There are data tracking forms for teachers and therapists to document how each intervention is working.

For example, if I choose ‘Poor Peer Relationships’, the following appears;

The student may:

  • Frequent conflicts with peers
  • Frequent tattling on others
  • Have difficulty carrying on conversation or play
  • Exhibit immature or inappropriate play or interactions
  • Annoy and irritate others
  • Difficulty relating to others
  • Trouble sharing, taking turns, and compromising
  • Bother others and get their attention then run away or laugh
  • Eat lunch alone or play alone on playground
  • Antagonize others, instigate, pushy, etc.
  • Only want to play or do what they want to, unwilling to do what others want to do
  • Little to no interaction in classroom or during unstructured times
  • Trouble getting along in groups or pair work
  • Not interact with other children in age appropriate ways
  • Have difficulty making or maintaining friendships
  • Display inappropriate behavior or make inappropriate comments
  • Frequently argue or fight with others

If most of these, describe my student, I would choose ‘yes’ and move to the Tier 1 list of suggestions. The following becomes available:


Each intervention option has accompanying strategies and activities to address the area of concern. This is one of the most valuable resources I have found for working on social skills and addressing behavior.

If you like this site, refer it to a colleague or parent.


There have been times in our lives when we wished we would have kept a thought in our head and not expressed it to others. It’s those times, we should have used our THOUGHT BUBBLE. We communicate our feelings, thoughts and ideas during conversation with others. However, not everything we think needs to be said. Sometimes expressing thoughts out loud can be inappropriate, annoying, uninteresting or rude.

Children that have difficulty with social skills are often challenged by conversation. They may make inappropriate or offensive comments (Williamson & Dorman, 2002). A variety of difficulties is associated with a tendency to inappropriately verbalize thoughts, including:

  • Perseveration on preferred topics or activities that cause children to ‘get stuck’ talking about things in detail, even though the listener or play partner is not interested
  • A tendency to think out loud or repeat things that have already been said
  • Impulsivity that leads to speaking without thinking first
  • Lack of ability to read cues that would help others know what is appropriate to say
  • A limited repertoire of ideas to share
  • Difficulty understanding that some thoughts may be hurtful or insulting

Children who are not careful about what they say to others are at risk for social difficulties. As they get older, inappropriate comments can lead to socially awkward, confusing and even dangerous situations.

 Start by helping the child learn the concept of a thought bubble:             thought bubble

  • A thought bubble is a place where ideas that are not shared by others are kept.
  • Words that are not appropriate for the conversation can stay in our heads, safely in the thought bubble.
  • We can use the ideas kept in our thought bubbles to practice what we want to say.

Once the child understands the concept, set up some rules about the thought bubble:

  • Think before you speak.
  • Not everything we think needs to be said.
  • If we think about something that is not related to the conversation (for example, thinking about dinosaurs when everyone else is talking about movies), we keep that in a thought bubble.

 quick tips use

Baltazar Mori, A. & Bonfield Piantanida, D. (2007). Every child wants to play. Torrance, CA. Pediatric Therapy Network.

Willey. L.H. (1999). Pretending to be normal: living with Asperger’s syndrome. London, England. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Williamson, G. & Dorman, W. (2002). Promoting social competence. San Antonio, TX. Therapy Skills Builders.


play quote

Pretend play is the child’s work. A child takes what they know and what they have seen and put it into practice. They pair movements and language to create scenarios that evolve and expand far beyond what they originally planned. There are direct correlations between play, the development of language, literacy and social skills.

Pretend play builds…


Pretend play give children opportunities to practice words they may not use very often. Their vocabulary words come from books, television shows, YouTube, what they have heard from their teachers, their peers and their parents (we should be careful of what we say!). Foster their vocabulary by having play activities around animals, occupations and places.


Studies have shown that children with a larger vocabulary are more successful in literacy learning. The foundational concept of literacy is symbolism; the idea that one object can stand for another. When our child uses a banana as a telephone or a bucket as a hat, they are building their understanding of symbolism. Symbolism comes before understanding the representation of letters or words. Play leads to reading.

Social Skills

During pretend play, a child takes on different roles, which not only gives them opportunities to practice vocabulary and symbolism, it also fosters emotions, turn talking, leadership and negotiation. Pretending to be a teacher, a firefighter, a pilot or a parent, all require adapting and using language to convey their feelings and actions. Many studies have shown that social skills and the understanding of emotions are critical in forming early friendships (Lillard, Learner, Hopkins, Dore, Smith, & Palmquist, 2013).

Make some time to pull a few household items together, plop on the floor and get silly. Let your child lead to you to their world of pretend play. For some great pretend play activities, explore these great resources…

Creative-DIY-Pretend-Play-CentersFantastic Fun & Learning

mrprintables-play-fruit-templatesMr. Printables

Playdough-and-LiteracyHome Literacy Blueprint

printablesMy Joy Filled Life

Lillard, A. S., Learner, M.D., Hopkins, E. J., Dore, R. A., Smith, E. D., & Palmquist, C. M. (2013). The Impact of Pretend Play of Children’s Development: A Review of the Evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 1-34.

APP REVIEW: Conversation Builders

conversation photo 1

Conversation is the primary way we communicate. It is also one of the most difficult components of social skills for children and adults with pragmatic language issues. Pragmatic language is the social use of language including non-verbal communication, gestures, turn-taking, use of questions, maintaining topic and saying related and appropriate comments.

Conversation Builder and Conversation Builder for Teens by Mobile Education Store are helpful in facilitating conversational skills.

These apps provide a conversation simulation that is similar to ‘real-life’ and is highly motivating for the students. It gives options for initiating a conversation, responding to someone starting a conversation and maintaining a conversation.  It contains photos of believable children and teens while providing visual and spoken options for responses.

What I like…….

  • Excellent instructions provided for first time users
  • Can choose to have verbal instructions turned on or off
  • Options to have short or longer conversations
  • A variety of appropriate topics are available
  • The student can record their voices
  • Incorrect answers are gently identified with a suggestion so the student can choose again
  • Facial expressions and tone of voice are embedded to look and sound natural
  • Ease with saving conversations and the ability to email and share
  • Parental controls with the Teen version to control more mature topics

The students love hearing their voices and playback is easy with the touch of a button.


What I  would like to see…..

  • Opportunities for the students have conversations with peers and adults simultaneously
  • More sarcasm and situations that are opportunities to identify the difference between annoying and bullying

021608-yellow-comment-bubbles-icon-symbols-shapes-smiley-happyI highly recommend Conversation Builder and Conversation Builder for Teens for parents and professionals. I look forward to more apps from the Mobile Education Store.

This app is much easier to interact with on the iPad vs. the iPhone.

Price- $19.99