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Special School District of St. Louis County

Helping Students Build
Friendships and Social Skills

Social skills, personal networks and friendships are important factors in supporting a student's success and growth. Building these skills and connections can help students improve their independence as they move into adulthood. 

Friendships and Personal Networks

Friendships can be a very personal choice. Some students are quite content with simply having activities to do. Others need personal connections with people to share ideas, stories and experiences.

What friendships and personal networks afford us are natural supports in the community, opportunities to participate in activities and connections to possibilities. Jobs are often found through someone you know. Friends and supports are also people to lean on for rides and transportation to outings, or they can intervene when we’re about to make a poor choice.

Why Are Social Skills Important?

Social skills are necessary for the development of friendships. From understanding personal space to acknowledging a greeting in whatever communication system used, social skills are how natural supports and friendships start.

Social skills do not need to be perfect (none of us are perfect!) but we must have basic skills to begin our natural supports and friendship journey.

Here are a few ideas for supporting social skills and friendship development at home and in the community:

  • Don’t assume all social skills are understood or will generalize across settings. We must model not only the skill needed, but also how to scan a situation, variations on the skill and how to recover if the first attempt failed.  Practice together and/or utilize videos to highlight how a situation might look and what social skills would look like in each situation for success.
  • Don’t assume friendships will happen because you’ve signed your child up for an activity.  Most friendships develop because of similar interests. Classes and camps are wonderful ways to practice social skills but might not be opportunities to develop friendships.  Finding activities that are of high interest to our kids (e.g. gaming, movie, book or computer clubs, dance classes, volunteer opportunities with animals, etc.) can be a positive way to find connections with other people.

Friendships and natural supports take time, patience, persistence and a willingness to try something new. You don’t need to brainstorm or strategize on your own. SSD has a wealth of resources – including staff, materials and workshops – that can support you and your child in developing these very important skills.

Written by Michelle Levi Perez
Administrator, SSD Parent Education & Diversity Awareness

Published December 2018

students playing

Social Skills Resources

SSD offers a variety of resources to assist families in helping their children develop friendships and build strong social networks.

arrow icon SSD's Family and Community Resource Center and Instructional Resource Center offer books, videos and other materials about social skills.

arrow icon Attend the "Helping Children Develop Friendships and Social Skills" workshop offered each semester by SSD's Parent and Diversity Awareness Program. Get the latest workshop listings in the Parent Connection newsletter.

arrow icon Talk to your student’s case manager about your child's social skills goals and what they are they working on. Ask what you can do at home to support those goals.

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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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