Why you should think about asking for your son to be removed from his social skills group in school this year.

I don’t hide the fact that I think the vast majority of social skills groups are not a productive use of time.

I have worked with many boys who have attended social skills groups in school. When I learn that they have attended a social skills group, I always (informally) assess whether they have been taught any important concept such as perspective taking, “getting the bigger picture”, relating to others experiences, etc.10 out of 10 times the answer is no, they have not been taught these foundational concepts. Rather, would I often find it that they’ve been taught some Social Thinking® vocabulary or the characters from the Superflex® curriculum (often at an age where this material is no longer age-appropriate).

You need to ask yourself-has attending this social skills group helped my son improve his social relationships with peers? Knowing Social Thinking® vocabulary or Superflex® characters is NOT an indication of generalizing social learning concepts.

While your son may like going because it’s a way to get out of class it may not be the most productive use of his time and here’s why:

-Most people who facilitate social skills groups have no specific training or education in teaching social skills. There are no requirements to run social skills groups. There is no professional organization, it is a completely unregulated field. In schools, counselors, speech-language pathologists, etc. are typically handed some materials and told to teach them, without any training or guidance.

-Social skills groups often are put together based on scheduling logistics. Rarely is there any thought given to grouping kids together based on what is called their “social communication profile” which is one’s ability to be attuned and interpret social information in the environment.

-Social skills groups often teach scripted, socially appropriate communication that are not organic to the way boys communicate with each other (and can actually make them sound socially awkward to their similar age peers).

-Boys & girls access language differently in their brains. The vast majority of people who teach social skills to boys are women. In social skills groups, they often teach boys to communicate socially like adult women.

-Kids who present with social anxiety are often mistakenly placed into social skills groups because most professionals do not discern the difference between social learning challenges and social anxiety.

-Social skills groups often teach boys to break the “hidden rules” and nuances of male-male social communication. As an example, people who teach social skills groups often teach boys to give others compliments. There is a hidden rule in boy culture that you don’t give another boy a compliment in front of other boys (except for a very few topics) because the boy receiving the compliment will feel embarrassed (and not being embarrassed is extremely important to boys).

You may get some “push back” from your son’s school if you ask him to be removed from his social skills group. Understand that most school professionals (including those who are running social skills groups) do not have the knowledge base to discern what makes for a productive social learning experience.

What would not be helpful to your son is going to a social skills group which pulls him out of instructional time and could teach him some things that make him seem socially awkward to his male peers.

Social Thinking and Superflex are  the work of Michelle Garcia Winner.  Learn more at: http://www.socialthinking.com