How To Support A Student Who Is Struggling Socially

If you’ve ever watched a student struggle to connect with their classmates, it can be heartbreaking. Some kids are a bit more socially awkward than others, and in turn, their peers don’t know how to relate to them. In this blog post, TeacherVision Advisory Board Member and autism mom Jessica shares her tips for supporting a student who struggles socially.

Updated on: February 25, 2020

practical advice for reaching students who are socially awkward

One of the greatest joys of being a teacher is seeing all the different personalities that come through your classroom door. There are students that are typical learners and they just fit right in with everyone else - and then there are the socially awkward kids. These kids can be misunderstood and often left out, which can be hard for you to manage.

In this blog post, you’ll learn how to support a student who is struggling socially and how you can encourage the other students to show acceptance and inclusivity.

Have Class Conversations

There’s so much that goes into a teacher's day. You’re teaching and molding the minds of the students in your class each and every day. Teaching the academics is so important (of course), but equally important is teaching to the heart.

At some point duing the day, you're probably having conversations with the students in your class. These conversations have nothing to do with math or reading, but everything to do with acceptance for every single child in your class. You’re not going to single out any kids, but just ask direct questions and have a dialogue about what it means to include every child, how to notice if someone is feeling left out and what to do about it, and why it’s an awesome thing that every personality type is different.

Think Deliberately About How to Pair Up Students

When you do a partner or even small-group activity in the classroom, think deliberately about how you’re going to group your students together. Of course you’ll need to group students together in reading groups based on their skill level (for example), but there are certain times in the school day where you can pair together kids that wouldn’t normally choose to sit by or play together.

When you’re creating seating charts, you can strategically put students next to each other who will of course work well together, but who also might end up forming a relationship or a friendship. But, on the flip side of that, you can also pair students together who you know will get along and have something in common with each other.

Engage 1-on-1 With the Child Struggling Socially

Have you heard the phrase before that students are watching you? Well, they really are. Since you know this, be an example. Have students watch you engage with their socially awkward peer(s) 1-on-1. When that student is at your desk, or when you walk to theirs, have a conversation about what that child is interested in. Let them see you talking with, laughing with, asking questions to, and being accepting of this child.

Of course you’re not just doing all of this for show. You really do care about this student that is struggling socially. But, what better way to engage with this child than in front of their peers so you can set an example of expectations?

Interact During Other Parts of the Day

There are other ways outside of the classroom where you can help support a student who is struggling socially. You can create a "lunch bunch" where students from your classroom or even kids from other classes who also struggle socially can meet together once a week and eat together.

Another way to interact outside of the classroom is to join your students for recess occasionally. If you see one of your students struggling with knowing how to join in and play basketball or what to do on the playground, ask them if they would like to color with sidewalk chalk with you. Then, you’ll slowly notice other students wanting to come over and join in - and before you know it, some of your students will try to enter this child’s world on their own instead of always expecting him or her to fit into theirs.

You can also interact with your students during car duty, by having conversations in the hallway on the way to music or art, or even while waiting for an assembly to start. Let the student who is struggling socially walk near you so you can make it a point to ask them questions and to have conversations to see how they’re doing. This will go a long way in helping them to open up and to know they’re accepted for who they are.

How do you reach out to students who struggle socially? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Jessica Peresta is passionate about providing other music teachers, especially those right out of college or new to teaching elementary music, with the music education resources, lesson plans, teacher training, and community you've been looking for. She believes your domestic life outside of school should be spent soaking up time with family and friends and your music teacher life while at school should not leave you feeling defeated, but should be a joyful, exciting, and rewarding experience. To find out more about Jessica and her passion, visit her at The Domestic Musician.