Information on this page about the interventions is based on the book, Prevent-Teach-Reinforce: The School-Based Model of Individualized Positive Behavior Support, Second Edition by G. Dunlap, R. Iovannone, D. Kincaid, K. Wilson, K. Christiansen, and P. S. Strain. 

What is the strategy? Why does it work?

All individuals need to learn how to socially navigate in social situations – peer interactions and relationships are necessary ingredients for a better quality of life and are foundational for future development. Students whose challenging behavior occurs when interacting with peers can decrease their challenging behaviors by being taught socially appropriate ways to get peer attention. In the event that a student is engaging in problem behavior to avoid peer interaction, the student can be taught appropriate social skills for ending or rejecting interaction activities. This strategy involves directly teaching students specific social skills necessary to successfully interact with peers and overall enhance social competence for peer interactions. Social skills can be through peer mediated intervention strategies in which a cohort of peers are trained to elicit, model, and reinforce specific social skills with a target student. It can also be taught using peer tutoring or peer modeling (see peer modeling intervention page). The intervention requires providing ample social opportunities in which the student can practice the social skills with peers.

Specific social skill strategies include:

  • Making conversation
  • Negotiating activities
  • Asking to join ongoing social activities
  • Ending an interaction
  • Engaging in ongoing conversation
  • Taking turns in a game or activity

Functions and antecedents the teach specific social skills intervention works for

If challenging behavior occurs…

  • Because the student does not use appropriate social skills due to
    • Skill deficit (student does not know the social skills)
    • Performance deficit (student knows the social skills but is not using them)
  • To get peer attention
  • To avoid peer attention

Steps for Implementation

  1. Using the PTR Assessment information, determine the specific areas, events, or situations in which specific social skills should be taught.
  2. Select the most appropriate social skill strategy that matches the situation.
  3. Determine appropriate peers to include in the instruction.
  4. Develop a task analysis of the steps for using the social skills strategy selected and teach it to the students by using the following procedures:
    • Provide instruction/explanation of the skill being taught. Provide several real-life examples of how the skill is used.
    • Demonstrate how to do the skill by modeling.
    • Provide the students with guided practice opportunities after modeling.
    • Provide immediate feedback during guided practice including positive comments for correct steps and corrective feedback for errors. Corrective feedback should be followed by more practice opportunities.
    • Provide multiple opportunities in the next weeks for the students to practice the skill and continue to provide feedback.
    • As the student gains skills, provide multiple exemplars with guided feedback so that the student begins to generalize the skills. Gradually fade the practice opportunities contingent upon student data showing increased mastery. Continue to probe throughout the school year to ensure generalization. Expand the cadre of peers with whom the student will use the specific social skills
  5. Identify a reinforcement system. Consider function of problem behavior as a reinforcement.

Important Implementation Considerations

  • Skills targeted for instruction should be ones that can:
    • Be learned quickly
    • Be used in multiple environments with multiple peers
  • Instruction should be provided in the natural environment in which the social situations occur.
  • When selecting peer partners or cadres, identify peers who have respect of others, have intact social skills, are empathetic toward others, and are well-liked

How to implement this strategy in multiple ways (examples & resources)

Supporting Research

Gresham, F. M. (2002). Best Practices in Social Skills Training. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology IV (pp. 1029–1040). National Association of School Psychologists.

Gresham, F. M., Van, M. B., & Cook, C. R. (2006). Social skills training for teaching replacement behaviors: remediating acquisition deficits in at-risk students. Behavioral Disorders, 31(4), 363–377.

Jordan, D. W., & Le Métais, J. (1997). Social skilling through cooperative learning. Educational Research, 39(1), 3–21.

Kalyva, E., & Agaliotis, I. (2009). Can social stories enhance the interpersonal conflict resolution skills of children with LD? Research in Developmental Disabilities, 30(1), 192-202. doi: