Social Skills Instruction

The number of youths with social problems is substantial. Researchers point out that social adjustment problems are common among youth, are persistent, and often escalate from minor conduct problems to criminal offenses. These problems are often resistant to change and are associated with poor psychological and emotional adjustment later in life. Because antisocial behavior is a reality in the schools and in the community, methods to address the social needs of youth must be implemented. Many schools have initiated policies to address school violence (e.g., metal detectors, police officers at schools). In addition, some schools have adopted “anti-bullying campaigns” to try to change how students interact with one another. Nevertheless, in light of the potentially devastating effects of social maladjustment and the correlation of conduct problems with future criminal activity, more intensive individual intervention is often needed.

Socially Wise

The Socially Wise Program is an interactive multimedia (IM) program for teaching social skills to adolescents. This computerized instructional program is designed for use in a variety of settings, including general and special education classes, in-school suspension programs, group homes, foster-care homes, mental-health centers, probation programs, transition programs, and detention centers. The CD program provides self-paced instruction for youth in skills to enhance relationships with adults and peers and provide alternatives for behaving in situations that have the potential to result in negative consequences for youth if not handled appropriately. The skills in the program are basic to communication, are important when dealing with authority figures and peers, and are typically listed as areas of skill deficits for youth with social-adjustment issues. In addition, situations in which these skills can be used occur fairly frequently, and the skills can be taught as either a preventive or remedial tactic. The skills are: Dealing with Critical Feedback, Coping with No, Accepting Advice, Negotiation, Apologizing, Involving Others, Responding to Peer Pressure, Giving Feedback to Peers, and Designing Your Own Social Skills. Mnemonic devices have been created to help learners remember the steps of the skills. This program, authored by Sue Vernon, has been empirically validated in different types of settings with youth aged 10 through 18 years, with and without exceptionalities.