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The Socially Skilled Kids Blog



Many students with special needs struggle to engage in conversations.  Why?  Well, there could be many reasons related to each child’s specific set of challenges and abilities.  But the biggest reason, in my mind, is the number of skills needed, to successfully engage in a conversation.

There are literally dozens of skills needed.  On top of that, these skills change based on the type of conversation, the number of people involved, etc.



Is it any wonder that engaging in conversations is challenging for our kiddos!

Something I spend a lot of time on with my students is, Responding To Others in a conversation.  After all, responding, is what makes a conversation a conversation.  Without the back and forth exchange, you have a lecture or a dialogue, not a conversation.

But how many times have you watched a group of your students talking…but no one is listening to the other, no one is responding to the other, and...

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Have you ever watched a group of your special education students having a “conversation?”  It can be very awkward, to say the least. 

To be fair, I see similar behaviors when watching regular education students too. The students are talking…but are they having a true conversation?

A conversation is defined as a back and forth verbal exchange between two or more individuals.  Of course there is sooooooo much more to it. 

When I watch my students{who haven’t used my strategies for having great conversations} engaging in a conversation… what I typically see is one child talking, then another child talking, then another…usually overlapping each other, rarely on the same topic, and sometimes with little to no regard for each other.

One of the skills my students and I work on the most, is responding to others.  This way, a more true conversation can occur. 



Four Ways To Respond To Others, In A...

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Engaging in successful conversations can be very challenging for our kiddos with special needs.  

Probably the biggest reason that conversations are challenging for our students, is because, like so many things, there are actually many skills involved.  Conversation may be one word, but the skills involved in executing it, are numerous and complex.  

Conversations involve complex social skills such as, Perspective Taking and Self-Regulation, which are often difficult for students with special needs. 



Here are my Top 10 picks for the most important skills needed to be taught to special education students, to help them engage in better conversations with their peers:

1. Physical Proximity

How many times have you seen your students talking to someone as they are walking away or as the other person is walking away, talking to someone who is too far away from them to gain their attention or be heard, talking to someone from...

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Many children who are typically developing find engaging in conversations to be quite easy.  They have picked up on the necessary skills naturally and with informal practice over time and in their day-to-day interactions with others.

But for our kiddos with special needs, we may need a more explicit approach.  Conversational skills often need to be broken down into small, manageable steps.  Each of those steps may need to be explicitly taught, practiced, re-taught, practiced in multiple environments, and so on.

Before we talk about how to teach conversational skills, let’s talk about why to teach conversational skills.

Our students need to be able to engage appropriately in conversations, to have successful social interactions.  However, this is not a quick and easy skill to teach, as there are many variables to consider.

Within the context of social interactions, we have many different types of conversations; from formal to informal, chit chat to...

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