School is not only a place where children learn reading, writing and math. It is also a place where they learn to get along with other people and develop social skills. Social skills are the skills we need to interact adaptively in our cultural environment. Although students don’t get grades on social tests from their teachers, their peers are constantly giving them “grades” on “social tests” every day. If a child does well on these “tests”, he is apt to be well liked and happy. He will enjoy school and look forward to coming to school. If a child fails these tests, she is apt to feel disconnected and left out.
Failing a social test can be more painful to a child than failing a reading or science test. For some children, social skills can be the hardest subject to pass in school. Social skills play a very important role in a child’s emotional health and well-being. Without friendships, school can be a very unhappy, lonely place that a child might want to avoid.
Children are born with innate social competencies just as they are born with other innate strengths and weaknesses in abilities such as attention, memory, language and motor skills. Weakness in these other skills can negatively affect a child’s social competency. For example, children who have attentional problems may have trouble listening and attending in conversations, be unable to inhibit the impulse to talk or say things at inappropriate times. Children with memory problems may have difficulty following a conversation because they cannot remember what was just said. Children with language and communication difficulties are especially vulnerable to social problems. They may have difficulty keeping up with the pace of a conversation, especially when there is a group of children talking.