Social Behavior

Some children and adults with special needs struggle in the area of social interactions. These difficulties may be influenced by deficits in self-regulation, processing, analysis of spatial information, and cognitive flexibility.  To be successful within social exchanges, one needs to be able to accurately decipher both verbal and nonverbal cues.  Often these are subtle, fleeting signals that require one to process and rapidly interpret presented information in order to formulate a response.  In addition, one must understand the underlying “rules” that govern responses in social situations. 

Improving social behavior: Understanding the rules and nuances

Social behavior overview

The four levels of social behavioral interactions.

Sharing materials with others activity with printable forms

To remind parents and staff of the importance of sharing and providing structured strategies for acquiring this skill.

Taking turns activity with printable form

The importance of developing good turn-taking skills and providing structured turn-taking practice activites.

Respecting the ideas of others activity with printable form

To explain in concrete terms and activities that people have different points of view.

Choosing friends activity

To help individuals with social difficulties develop a system for determining whether or not someone has the potential to be a good friend.

Printable graphic organizers to represent social rules

Graphic Organizers are teaching tools designed to lay out important information in a visual way. 

Sharing personal space activity

To help individuals with social issues recognize the importance of learning to share space with others.


Waiting behavior activity

To help individuals with special needs recognize the importance of learning to wait and developing strategies to help become more patient.


Trying new things activity

To give individuals with special needs a strategy for easing anxiety related to trying new things.


Participating with others activity

To help individuals with social issues to understand the expectations that others have of them in certain social situations.

Reading nonverbal cues activities

Often children with special needs may have difficulties recognizing the nonverbal cues and interpreting the meaning embedded in the signals.


First – Then story strips

These strips are helpful in teaching the important concept of "first" and "then".


Recognizing emotions and expanding the emotional vocabulary

The Emotions Color Wheel

The Emotion Color Wheel can help visually group feelings. The circle is divided into colors to show some basic emotions. 

The Feelings Game

4 graduated lessons for learning about emotions.

Classroom activities for social-emotional skills

Many students have a difficult time accurately labeling their own emotions and the emotions of others.


Story strips to describe expected social behavior


View2Do is an online program that lets teachers and parents create customized teaching aids for visual learners.


JobTIPS provides learning resources, guided exercises, graphic organizers, role-playing scenario cards, video tutorials, and visual prompts to help students with any learning style get ahead in the workplace.

Overview of story strips

Story strips are built on the concepts learned in the schedules section. 

Social Play Action Figures

 Use characters customized for each child to teach listening, taking turns, staying on subject, and empathy.

Behavior story strips

Story strips can communicate a specific expected behavior.

Safety skills story strips

Story strips can be used to teach many safety skills such as do not climb, do not touch the iron, or how to cross the street safely.

Feelings Chart

Printable chart to use to show how a person is feeling right now.