Home Speech-Language Pathology Collaboration Corner: Finding the Common Core of Social Skills

Collaboration Corner: Finding the Common Core of Social Skills

by Kerry Davis
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A few months ago, I wrote a blog about making speech and language goals integrated throughout the IEP. One person commented, “We need to work smarter, not harder.” I completely agree. Our caseloads will continue to increase, and our students will become more and more complex.

Now we have this Common Core thing to worry about, right? Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core Standards related to math, language, science and social studies, all focused on developing a well-rounded student ready to take on the challenges of college and career.  So with that in mind, I took to trip to the website.

I was checking out the speaking and listening, section under English Language Arts, when what to my wandering eyes did appear? First grade standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1a Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1b Build on others’ talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1c Ask questions to clear up any confusion about the topics and texts under discussion.

(Core standards, 2012)

Why doesn’t that look just like … wait a minute, something familiar … social pragmatics! In my district our schools are busting at the seams with kids needing social pragmatics skills. We even have city-wide social thinking educators that run groups all focused on social skill development.

Here is how we are going to work smarter—by haring our expertise with others. It is fantastic that the need for social skill development has hit the national education scene, this gives some street cred to our social skills groups and lunch bunches. Now we need to bring it to the next level: get it out of the speech office, and back into the classroom.

Some things to consider:

1) Make your consult time be staff development time: Train your teachers, paraprofessionals, whoever will listen to use social skill strategies you are using with students.

2) Set a reasonable goal for adoption: Maybe it’s visuals for the first grade classroom one year, or key words and phrases for whole class lessons and expectations using the social thinking curriculum by Michelle Garcia-Winner.

3) Use the Common Core to guide IEP objectives: Look at the standards, and then simply make them achievable and measurable, and hold everyone accountable for following them.

4) Market your tools as “good teaching” rather than “special education” tools: A total pet-peeve of mine … there are no “special education” tools to learning—there are just tools.

5) Run a couple of whole group lessons, model for the teachers, and gauge what is doable.

Your presence in the target classroom reminds teachers to use you as their point person, their resource. They won’t know you’re there unless you make yourself present, and that’s when the good stuff, the collaborating, starts.


Kerry Davis, Ed.D, CCC-SLP, is a city-wide speech-language pathologist west of Boston. Her areas of interest include working with children with multiple disabilities, inclusion in education and professional development. The views on this blog are my own and do not represent those of my employer. Davis can be followed on Twitter at @DrKDavisslp.

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Phuong Lien Palafox, ccc-SLP April 19, 2013 - 8:39 am

Kerry, this is a much needed post. As an SLP with a heart-passion for working with students needing support with social pragmatic skills, I feel it’s challenging, at times, to bring awareness to the “educational need” part. Your specific examples of the Core Standards is a perfect way to demonstrate this vital component. Moreover, I believe that our efforts as clinicians in the schools should be CUMULATIVE. By building capacity with other educational team members, we are providing a consistent, efficacious program for each individual student. And, it’s fun to work with educational peers! Thanks for your brain!

kerry Davis April 19, 2013 - 10:04 am

Thank you Phuong…..I am a firm believer of collective intelligence, the foundation for building a strong knowledge base, stronger practitioners, and the only way to tackle these complex kids!

Daylinda April 20, 2013 - 10:05 am

Great article Kerry! I have worked for a school district in California before where several special ed members and I initiated social skills groups at the elementary level. I loved it! Now, that I work in private practice in a different state, I notice how much of struggle it is for school-based SLPS to think about how to facilitate and support kids with social or pragmatic language deficits. The common core listening and speaking standards provide the rationale and justification of how social skills are important in a classroom and school setting. With the increase of students being identified with autism along with other disabilities (i.e. mental health issues,AD/HD) who’ll need social skills instruction, keeping our skill set up to date as well as “working smarter versus harder” is so needed. Thanks for the great article!!! 🙂

Kerry April 25, 2013 - 7:22 am

Thanks for your comments~the nice thing about the core standards is that it provides guidance for every grade~ so educators need to keep on their “radar” social skill development all the way through high school. It also provides a unique opportunity for general education teachers to look to their SLPs as a resource, so everyone doesn’t have to keep reinventing the wheel independent of one another 🙂

Cindy Basso July 4, 2013 - 10:52 am

Thanks for writing this post Dr. Davis. I am one of your districts social thinking educators and I agree with your thoughts on this. I am currently trying to bridge the gap between the common core standards and my day to day work….lots of overlap 🙂 So it seems social pragmatics ARE important after all….who knew…:)

kerry davis July 5, 2013 - 9:52 am

Thanks for finding my blog Ms.Basso! So nice to see other disciplines be a part of the conversation 🙂

Global Education Academy January 8, 2014 - 2:58 pm

Hello Kerry,
As a long-time special educator, currently working as a part-time SPED support person at a small charter school in South Los Angeles, I found your article while doing beginning research for possibly developing a social skills group at my school. I have printed it out for myself and our RSP teacher. I am in complete agreement with your “work smarter, not harder” principle and you’ve outlined several ways to begin doing this. I appreciate so much your distillation of the difficulties and joys of developing strong working relationships with both students and teachers.

Kerry Davis January 9, 2014 - 1:18 pm

Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer. I think it’s pretty easy to get caught up in routine and forget the multitude of resources available at our fingertips, we just need to remember to offer AND ask. I am glad you found these tips helpful!

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