Social supports

  • Overview

    for inclusive schools is supporting students with disabilities to develop authentic friendships.  It is often noted that students with disabilities typically have fewer friends and are targets of bullying more often than their typical peers. Parents, students, and educators need support and skills to support the development of friendships and social participation.

    Social inclusion is critical to a student’s confidence and wellbeing, and therefore also relevant to their academic progress.  Social development and social capabilities are specifically recognised as part of all states/territories’ curriculum.

  • Strategies

    is important in the classroom, in the playground, as well as during excursions, camps and extra-curricular activities.  The strategies to support this inclusion will vary from one student to another, dependent upon personality, existing skills, communication method, as well as developmental stage, amongst other factors.  Strategies might include:

    • Explicit teaching of social skills (eg appropriate ways to greet familiar/unfamiliar people)
    • The use of role-plays
    • Student partners/pairings
    • Lunchtime schedules of activities and peer partners/mentors
    • Facilitating social interactions through small group activities or community access activities
    • Professional-led social skill development session/s.

    The ABLES resource (discussed in the ILP and curriculum adjustments topic) includes personal and social capability skills assessment tools which can be used with students of any age.  There is also a separate assessment tool relating to personal and social capability skills designed specifically for use with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Once assessed, the resource provides a report specific for that student which includes suggestions of strategies to support social learning.

    In relation to bullying in particular, part two of this guide by Disability Advocacy NSW A Parent’s Toolkit – School Issues for students with disabilities has useful information and advice.

    This Spectronics blog post has numerous suggestions on how to create communication opportunities.

    For suggestions of social supports that are suitable for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, watch Sue Larkey’s video below:

  • Communication partners

    For students with communication support needs, a key requirement for social inclusion is communication partners – that is, others who have been trained in and understand how the student communicates.  Often, teachers and/or aides are trained to undertake this role, but classmates usually are not.  For social interaction, classmates may not require specific training to interact with the student with communication support needs however it will be helpful for them to understand the communication method.  Providing as many opportunities for this will maximise social inclusion.

    Independent Living Centre WA has some great suggestions for getting peers involved:

    • Play games in groups that require giving and following instructions. The student using AAC get a turn to give the directions. Try ‘Simon Says’, or ‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf’. Program pre-stored phrases in (“It’s dinner time!”).
    • Create opportunities to interview or conduct surveys of different people in the class and school. What colour is liked the most in class? Which football team do people support? Perhaps you are doing a maths task on graphs and the students’ job could be to conduct a survey to get the information for the graph. Cook something and get feedback from the class. What did it taste like? What should we make next time? Work in pairs with the student using AAC asking the questions and a peer taking a tally.
    • Work in small groups and have the students complete a task that requires them to communicate and work together. Bake something together (What will you make? What do we have to do next?). Write a poem or a story – the student using AAC could suggest characters, places etc.
    • Perhaps once a week you spend 5 minutes having class conversation or structured news time where students share something about themselves or something they have done. This news can be pre-programmed into the device with the student before this activity or programmed at home. You could also do this as a writing task using the device to support vocabulary and sentence structure.
    • Get telling a few jokes. Perhaps before home time you spend 5 mins telling jokes as a class. The student can participate by having them pre-prepared in their device.
  • Sharing information

    for the student with communication support needs to share information about themselves can also facilitate social inclusion.  One way of doing this is for the student with communication support needs to prepare (with help if required) a profile, letter or note that expresses their likes/dislikes/interests/etc, and to share this (with teacher’s assistance if required) with the class or a select number of peers.  Sue Larkey’s website has a template: “Ten things about me”.  See also Scope’s Communication Passport Guide. It may be appropriate to offer this opportunity to your student on a regular basis.

    For more advice on supporting social inclusion, speak to your student’s family, speech therapist and/or any other professionals involved.

    For more information on supporting social inclusion of students with communication support needs, specifically students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, see: