25 IEP Goals For Social Skills Development In Kids

Last Updated on May 8, 2024 by Editorial Team

Man is a social animal. Hence, skills for dealing with social situations are as important as language and number skills. Some students do well on the platforms of social interaction. But, there is always a section of students who find it almost impossible to open up and self-express[1].

On closer scrutiny of such cases, educators found a connection between learning liabilities and poor social skills. To help students with special needs have a fair chance at attaining social-emotional intelligence, IEP goals formation has become a must for schools that run on IDEA or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 guidelines. Let’s go through the list of IEP goals for making kids skilled in social interactions.

IEP Goals for imparting social skills

Social skills mean responding to daily-life situations as well as at special occasions appropriately, and according to the rules of a civilized environment. A complete fabric of the social environment encompasses interpersonal correspondences, situations demanding social-emotional intelligence, rules for communicating verbally and non-verbally, and conditions that require clear and confident self-expression. Hence, a complete set of IEP goals for social skills can be better understood and worked upon by categorizing them in the following sub-heads:

1. Appropriate behavioral practices

Civilized society runs on rules. One has to adopt a certain set of rules while playing with friends, families, classmates, etc. Hence, IEP goals for teaching appropriate behavior in a rules-led environment may comprise:

  • The child will recognize the peers he likes and will greet them with at least 80% effectiveness during recess time at least for three consecutive weeks.
  • The child will recognize the teacher or other figure of authority and will listen/follow their instructions with 80% success over a chosen period of time.
  • In case of situations of conflict, the child will adopt a problem-solving attitude and try to reach upon a consensus with 80% success for appropriate frequency.
  • For situations that induce anxiety, the child will practice relaxation techniques taught to him and demonstrate the same with 80% accuracy at least. Weekly, fortnightly and monthly targets assignment advisable.
  • Offering help to the teacher or classmate after sensing the need and take care of the self’s interest while doing so over a chosen period of time.
IEP Goals For Social Skills Development In Kids

2. Social-emotional skills

Social-emotional intelligence means being aware of happy, sad, exciting, or stressful situations and displaying appropriate behavior[2]. Children with little to nil emotional cognition can improve their responses with the help of IEP goals comprising:

  • Identify and describe the situation where the child experienced an emotion with more than 80% accuracy
  • Identify and describe the emotion when shown a TV show scene in muted manner or a picture with 80% efficiency
  • Respond to teasing and bullying and report the same to authorities; learning to stand firmly for the self but without getting into a fight or giving into any provocation
  • Asking for a break when feeling emotionally drained out or overwhelmed by work
  • Showing preparedness for the unplanned activities and adjusting to new situations seamlessly
IEP Goals For Social Skills Development In Kids

3. Appropriate language use

Children adopt most of the language from the seniors at home. Though it will not be possible to change the family atmosphere entirely, it being a bigger constant in a child’s life, one can follow these IEP goals with varying levels of affirmations depending on the need:

  • Greet or address parents, teachers and peers appropriately when meeting for the first time in a day
  • Understand the differentiation between good and abusive words and find alternatives to express anger, sadness or frustration
  • Learning words and expression like Thank You, Sorry, You are Welcome, I appreciate it, etc. in a correct context over a period of time
  • Avoid undue interruptions when someone is talking and appreciating or refuting the message received with proper, firm yet polite words.
  • Improve conversation skills by starting the topic and trying to hold a conversation with parent or friend for appropriate length, asking for more time and questioning the listener if they are not bored out or have understood what you talked.
IEP Goals For Social Skills Development In Kids

4. Body language improvement

Throwing tantrums may be a child-like behavior but remaining impervious throughout the scene and poor cognition of the self in context with the surroundings is not. In order to correct such erratic behavior, IEP goals may comprise:

  • Learn ways to show approval or disapproval in various situations using physical cues with 80% accuracy
  • Learn to resolve conflict without shouting, or hitting, or walking away
  • Master ways to show interest towards a person or a situation while maintaining proper physical distance
  • Learn verbal and non-verbal ways of expressing ideas or emotions, which are apt to any situation
  • Adopt confident ways of answering the questions and learn to answer in exact accordance with the demands of a query
IEP Goals For Social Skills Development In Kids

5. Self-expression skills

Self-disclose is a big challenge for children with special needs, because of increased doubts about the self[3]. When they are constantly made to believe what they are not, they lose interest in expressing themselves thinking it to be a pointless activity. IEP goals that help correct this situation are:

  • Become able to differentiate between an imposed upon and self-controlled behavior
  • Communicate clearly what they want and show proper emotion on getting the desired
  • Learn to decide a timeline for the response and reduce response time by adopting fast thinking
  • Understand and express the importance of goals and ask for the help to attain those if needed
  • Improve turn-taking skills and use the turn to the best to achieve the appropriate results
IEP Goals For Social Skills Development In Kids

Need assessment for social skills development in children

IEP goals for social skills can make complete sense only when these are designed for the learners in an individualized manner. It requires objective need assessment, which includes:

  • Rate the child’s behavior on 1-10 scale in a rule-based social setting
  • Talk and find the number of friends or kind of support system the child has or lack of it.
  • Extent of inability to feel, understand, react and respond to various situations in an unstructured play situation
  • Assess the readiness to learn ways to improve time management, skills management and to achieve success in tasks assigned.

Based on the assessments made, there are a few important activities that are proposed for social skills development in a child.

Activities that help achieve IEP goals for social skills

Once you become aware of the child’s needs, you need to plan activities that may help impart social skills. Activities need to be simple, with measurable outcomes, and of repetitive nature, sometimes, time-bound too. A few examples are:

  • Role Plays: Organize role plays regularly to make children familiar with situations and improve their responses
  • Play board games: Board games teach teamwork, waiting for turn, making decisions and build analytical skills. All these are needed for making a child socially intelligent
  • Give group projects: Make groups of students and ask them to develop a model, or come with an action plan to help a needy child, or organize a welcome party for the class.
  • Organize educational trips: Take kids to museum, park, library and other places of general interest to teach them taking care of their own, and behave appropriately in various surroundings.


Objective evaluation and correct identification of learning needs are the prerequisites for successful designing and effective implementation of IEP goals. Since these skills cannot be expressed in numbers, it is necessary to have practical ways of assessing the achievement level. Also, make parents your team and add more accountability to the process by having regular discussions. But, it is important to ensure that the kids don’t feel like having been put to constant scrutiny; their natural self has to be maintained, a point worth taking care of!


[1]Measures of Social and Emotional Skills for Children and Young People : A Systematic Review by Neil Humphrey, Et Al, Published at online journal Educational and Psychological Measurement 71(4):617-637

[2] Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health Needs, a report by Dr. Miguel A Cardona, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services

[3] Self-Disclosing Communication, Pearce & Sharp, Journal of Communication, Volume 23, Issue 4, December 1973, Pages 409–425

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