Social Skills Development

May 10, 2023

Social Skills Development takes many forms. This spot is where we’ll share stories from our classrooms and therapy areas about how our students are making gains every day in the area of social, emotional, and communication skills. Please leave a comment of encouragement for our staff, students, and families.  ♥

This blog spot is about:

“Wanna play?” Words everyone remembers from their childhood when a peer runs up to you on the playground and asks if you’re in for a game or romp through the slides. Whether with cars, dinosaurs, dolls, or legos, play is a basic element of childhood that many kids intrinsically grasp easily and naturally. But, at Crossroads, we know that not everyone knows how to play.

Not naturally, not intrinsically, and certainly not easily. Many kids, especially those with special needs, need help to learn how.

Play is a term that encompasses everything from dolls to toy trains, from Trouble to soccer, from house to superheroes. Play builds skills in every area of life, from independence to interaction, from attending to transitioning, from people skills to school skills to job skills.

Playing with a toy in its intended manner, interacting with others in ways that are positive, using one’s time in fun and healthy ways, engaging in new activities to build variety and interests…. so many things to learn! Yes, it’s an area that’s tremendously important to work on with children.

All of Crossroads Center for Children’s classrooms, whether preschool or school age, have toys, games, and most importantly, a time set aside for the class to work on play skills. Some classrooms call it social skills, others call it play centers, but no matter the name, the skill set being worked on is play. Play and social skills are further addressed during other group times, such as Circle, Centers, Art, Music, Physical Education. The progress of the individual children in the classroom is facilitated through strategically planning activities, interactions, and opportunities to target each students’ particular goals.

How are play skills taught? The same way as other skills at the school are addressed – by breaking the skills down into more manageable sets and steps, by modeling the steps, by gradually lessening the prompting, and by taking data so that progress is truly measurable. For example, when teaching how to build with legos, rather than lining them up, the teacher might start with having the child stack just 2 legos, and reinforcing this achievement each time the child succeeds. When the child is consistently successful with 2 legos, he or she can work with 3, and so on. In this manner, little by little, students make gains that they can carry over into other, generalized settings. Armed with knowing how to play, the child is more able to join in and play with others when “wanna play?” is asked by a peer.

Outdoor Play

The Power of Connection. 5.10.23

It’s a touching sight to see Crossroads students connect with each other in meaningful ways. Recently, two boys in Room 13 have become great friends, and their bond has been a joy to witness. These boys, who once struggled with social interaction and communication, now enjoy laughing and hugging each other. Their friendship has brought them both out of their shells and has given them a sense of belonging. Watching them play together and support each other is a testament to the power of friendship, and to the importance of fostering connections. It’s a reminder that, even in a world that can often feel isolating and confusing, there is always room for joy and companionship.


More Than Meets The Eye. 4.24.23

In a classroom filled with 10 and 11-year-old boys, it’s not uncommon to witness silly behavior, such as striking superhero poses or balancing items on their heads, during snack time. At first glance, it might seem like just fun and games, but there’s actually more to it than meets the eye. For these boys, engaging in such behaviors can be a way of exploring and experimenting with their bodies and their environment. It can also be a way of coping with stress and anxiety, and of expressing themselves in a way that feels safe and comfortable.

As teachers and caregivers, it’s important to recognize the value of play and the role it plays in children’s development, especially for those with special needs. Play can help children learn and practice important skills, such as social communication, problem-solving, and emotional regulation. It can also foster creativity, imagination, and a sense of joy and wonder. So, the next time you see a classroom of boys being silly and having fun during snack time, remember that there’s more to it than meets the eye, and that play can be a powerful tool for learning, growth, and well-being.

Friendship Goals 4.21.23

Here’s a heartwarming story of friendship and progress from Room 13. These two amazing children, W & K, started their school year working on social skills and building connections with their peers. Today, they have become best friends and brighten up each other’s days with laughter, fun, and support. Their journey reminds us that with the right support and opportunities, children of all abilities can thrive and form meaningful relationships. Let’s celebrate their friendship and promote acceptance and inclusion for all. Thanks to Ms. Victoria for the amazing pictures!

Individual Choices | 1.30.23

There are times to learn to play with new toys, and times for choosing what to play with. Here we are in Room 13, where children have found what they want to play with and are able to play with these toys functionally. Building tracks, driving trains on them, showing Kevin, a BCBA a favorite train car, pressing the keys to make the monkey dance or the animals make their sounds… all of these skills have taken time and attention to develop.  We’re so proud of these developments.

Birthdays are Special | 1.26.23

Celebrations most always include extra noise, lights, activity, and people, which might be fun for many, and NOT fun for others. But rather than skip celebrating, we love it when we can celebrate at school, and prepare our kiddos for what parties can be like. Today Room 11 got to celebrate a 12th birthday for “M”. 12 is a very big deal, and his team went all out with cupcakes and a cake to show their love.

Toys Together | 1.10.23

Wow, this small Room 7 group is playing with an assortment of toys on the rug, and all types of play skills are being seen.

The children are interacting with figures and items that go in the house and out of the house, a concept that is part of our curriculum – in, out, on, under, next to, and so on typically need to be taught, practiced and repeated. Playing with toys in this way allows the teachers in the room to reinforce the language that corresponds what the children are doing.

Then there is the interaction with making a phone call, which one of the youngsters initiates and the teachers respond to by picking up the phone and talking back with him. That pretend ability is another tough concept for children; the fact that he initiates it here creates a bit of excitement on the part of the educators.

Also, the fact that the kids are interacting with each other means progress has been made from the beginning of the year, when most were more interested in their own toys or items and space. This is something that has been worked on consistently and is coming to fruition.

All At the Table Together | 01.04.23

To many people, eating with others is fun and enjoyable. To others, it is too close, and too many smells.

Our students, many of whom are on the autism spectrum, tend towards the latter side of the preference scale. It’s no surprise, really. A simple internet search will reveal that children with autism have higher levels of difficulties than their neuro-typical peers with 1. sitting and 2. food experiences.

Which is why our teachers work on sitting, attending, being in close proximity, eating with others, trying new foods, and so on.

So, when all students are able to go to their cubby and get their lunches, bring them to the table and find a spot to sit, and then eat without issue, well, that’s something very cool. Kudos to Room 8. We know you’ve worked hard on these things all year.


Practicing Sharing 12.1.22

The difficult part about sharing is that you have something you like, and you give it up for someone else. Not an easy concept to teach, so it’s something to practice a great deal.

But when a student is playing, and, unprompted, hands it over to his buddy, well, that’s pretty darn cool. And when three students decide to sit down and read the book together instead of fighting over this one, that’s pretty awesome, too. Kudos to Room 12 and Room 5 for the great experiences and pictures!

Musical Chairs 11.14.22

Talk about a game that is frequently the source of disappointment! Musical Chairs is known as a fun and exciting game, but when learning the ropes, many kids react with great dismay when they don’t get into a chair and learn they’re now out. This is precisely why it is a great game for teaching kids how to deal with disappointment, and how to be patient and try again next time.

The children in Room 5 have just begun the game, as it is still early in the school year. Some hacks teachers have to help the learning curve along include letting the ousted kids have a turn to turn off or on the music, helping to remove the next chairs, and so on. These kids are doing really well with the game!

Toys on the Rug 11.1.22

In Room 6, one of the ways they do Play Centers, is to put a variety of toys out on the rug and let each child pick what he/she wants to play with. They don’t always put out the same toys, however, giving kiddos access to different toys all the time. While kids are playing, it is also important to note that the teaching team is right there, teaching the children how to functionally play with the toys they are playing with, and interacting with them. Like Room 5 below, Room 6’s students are also 4 and 5 year olds, also gaining school readiness skills, and within a smaller group of students.


Play Centers 10.17.22

Room 5 is our largest group of students. These are 4 and 5 year old kiddos who are getting ready for Kindergarten come next fall. So a lot of their lessons and activities are done in centers and small groups; hypothetically there is less one-to-one attention in this model.

Recently we caught up with Room 5 during their play centers. We know that in centers, children have the opportunity to model the actions and interactions of one another. They learn to transition quickly because the groups rotate on a timer from one center to the next. Centers can be set up at tables, or on the floor, so there are ample opportunities for movement and body positioning.

Whether playing with tools or playdoh or another fun activity, children are learning to play with different objects and materials. They are learning to expand their repertoire of toys and games they can play with. Check them out below.



Playdoh Moments 10.7.22

If there’s anything we use more of than anything, it has to be playdoh. We go through a lot of it at Crossroads, and with good reason. Playing with dough has excellent benefits to fine motor skills and strength, creativity, and cognitive skills, as well as being an appealing sensory experience for many children.

Here in Room 7, students are found engaging in playdoh in 2 small groups that are joined into 1 larger group by a table. They are learning to sit together in a group, many for the first time, and tolerate others in their space. We caught them at  great moment when everyone’s enjoying their time together. Learning is underway, and these kiddos are looking at great relationships with playdoh.

Pile on the Puzzles 10.3.22

Whether working on a puzzle with others or in solo, the benefits of puzzling are impressive. Here is a short excerpt from a longer article linked below.

“Puzzles are also good for the brain. Studies have shown that doing jigsaw puzzles can improve cognition and visual-spatial reasoning. The act of putting the pieces of a puzzle together requires concentration and improves short-term memory and problem solving. Using the puzzle as an exercise of the mind can spark imagination and increase both your creativity and productivity.” Baylor College of Medicine, as found at

Recently, students in Room 5 had a great time working on 4 puzzles at once. The students worked together to find and match to create the pictures. As challenging a task as it is to think about 4 puzzle pictures at once, the children were awesome at helping each other to get the job done!

Ask for a Hug 9.29.22

Kids like ours can be at risk of being targets of bullying, aggression, or other inappropriate conduct from others as they grow older. It’s so important to teach them social skills that will keep them safe. One such behavior we often see and hear about here is children approaching others unrestrictedly. In other words, rushing in to hug someone, even strangers. It is hard to teach boundaries, but teaching them to ask for a hug, or for other types of affection could be a life-saver, literally. Our educators are always prompting students to say hello with words when visitors come around, and to ask first for hugs when seeing adults they know and trust.

At snack time in Room 3 recently, Z asked his teacher, Ms. Melissa, for a hug. What happened? She gave him a great hug, and complimented him on his asking first. Great job, Z!

Pretend Play 9.23.22

Another Room 14 play center is pretending, and this one involves a play kitchen with play food. The kids are “cooking” and then enjoying a “picnic.” Since play skills can be tough to grasp, a lot of progress is to be admired here.

Doll Houses and Other Buildings 9.22.22

This play center in Room 14 is set up with a doll house, some furniture and some people. Why? Because children in the room are working on skills such as turn taking, functions and roles. They are working on questions like “what room do we eat in?” and “where do people sleep?’ This center gives them a fun way to role play and process real life roles and functions.

K and T use their young hands to set up rooms with what goes in them. They move their people through the rooms. They make sounds for cars and speech to their people.

Soothing Snack Time   9.22.22

When everyone is hot and sweaty after a half hour of running around in the gym, and when everyone is a teensy bit cranky because they are hungry, and when everyone is also a little heightened in terms of environmental stimulation… what do you do?

Here’s an idea from Ms. Kenzie, Room 4‘s teacher. She has strung up strings of lights around the room. She turns off the bright ceiling lights, and turns on these small twinkles. She has her students bring their snacks to the table, where they can eat and interact peacefully with the team, meeting individual needs for space and assistance. This strategy to bring students from 100 to 10 in energy level is well-executed and very effective.

Chips Ahoy!  8.9.22

It’s a Friday afternoon at Crossroads Center for Children, and kids in Room 5 are having a chip taste test. If you can look closely at the pictures, there are yellow/white chips and orange ones – probably something zesty, cheesy or barbequey. Yes, they each have had their healthy snacks from home, but this is a special treat and chance to use their words to describe different flavors, contrast and compare.

If you are in the room at this session, you’ll hear laughing and chatting, and see kids sitting and staying at their tables, enjoying their friends, and making a few faces, perhaps in response to the flavors. We love to see these blossoming social interaction skills!

Group Games 8.5.22

Teachers and therapists here commonly use board games and other group games to address social skills that their students need to work on. Games can help improve skills such as interacting and communicating. Students learn to play with others and express themselves.

Today, for instance, Room 11’s crew assembled at the table for their Group Games slot. ‘B” and “J” got the board all set up while the rest of the gang made their way to the table.

Some of the things that students are working on, and you can see in these pictures:

  • Sitting with or near others, and increasing tolerance for others in one’s proximity.
  • Taking turns
  • Staying focused on the goal of the game
  • Being patient when it’s someone else’s turn.
  • Following rules.
  • Losing gracefully
  • Congratulating others when you win.
  • Collaborating in team play.
  • Accepting other games than the one that is your favorite.

Not always the case; these skills have taken a lot of practice and repetition, positive reinforcement and more practice. We’re all really proud of these guys!

 Dollhouses, Tree Houses, and Other Play Buildings 6.17.22

The benefits of dollhouse play are many. Children will learn the names of rooms, and the functions of those rooms, such as the kitchen is where we cook our food, the bedroom is where we sleep. They’ll also work on fine motor skills as they move their action figure or doll throughout the house. Creativity comes into play as they create a story to go with their doll’s actions. Interaction with other children and their dolls makes it an interactive activity for parallel or cooperative play.

Here “A” is enjoying both a tree house and a doll house, side by side, essentially a small village. He is alone at the center at the moment, so shares a doll with the photographer when approached, inviting a play partner. That is a great skill learned this year, in Room 1.

 Lego Love   6.7.22

We really can’t say enough about Legos! The minds of our little ones are sharpened and shaped daily with these construction toys, which come in many sizes, colors and can build anything the child wishes to build.

Here are some pictures from Room 5 where all things Lego were on the tables. By creating centers in this classroom, the teachers give students the opportunity to work within a group to solve problems, and model from one another.

Let the construction begin!

Toys That Build  5.30.22

Constructing buildings, walls, automobiles, and even animals and people, Legos and other building toys are a great way to work on fine motor skills, creative problem-solving, and group-cohesion skills.

Pictured here are youngsters in Room 8 working with blocks in individual projects but together at one table, where modeling and idea-sharing are encouraged, as well as asking each other to use parts and pieces that are desired.

The final results? Impressive for sure!

Play-Doh – 3.28.22

It’s squishy, it holds form, it’s colorful, when it comes to Play-Doh, what’s not to love?

Children in Room 5, here, are enjoying centers, and at this particular table, Play-Doh is the activity at hand. You can see Ms. May with students creating pizza slices in many colors. Giving their senses a workout, they are also exercising fine-motor skills and imagination. Most importantly of all, for the purpose of this blog-spot, the interactions within the group are ample: “J” creates a pizza slice and offers it to “K”. She accepts with a “thank you.” She asks “M” what tool he has. He shows his rolling-pin abilities. These conversations are great, since it’s taken the better part of the year to have students learn to work in groups, stay in centers until the time is signaled, and interact with children they hadn’t been with in previous years. Yes, Play-Doh is a smart choice for social skills development!

Making Shapes  3.21.22

When it’s time to focus on shape skills, here are a couple of cute ideas from Room 3 today. A is working with a shape sorter, and getting the correct piece for each of the holes, while K is working with a group of piggy bank coins. The piggy bank is pictured, but what is most interesting is that K is making shapes OUT of the coins, by lining them up according to what Ms. Melissa suggests. So he has created a triangle out of circles, a rectangle, a square and so on.

Table Games   3.15.22

Do you remember Candy Land? Chutes and Ladders? These games have been around since the 1940’s and are still favored by children, parents and teachers, for the fun and the learning opportunities that avail. Board games in general lead to practice of waiting, turn-taking, problem-solving, and chances to learn to deal with disappointment along the way. But the little marker/mover that small fingers need to manipulate can make such board games just a little bit out of reach for some of our kiddos, and so teachers find games that will teach needed skills and also allow their students to engage with the motor skills they have.

Here is a wonderful group in Room 8 recently. They were playing Hungry Hungry Hippo, and loving it for at least 20 minutes, a great stretch of time for this age. See how each child is attending to task, and able to handle the playing pieces.

Blocks    2.15.22

Blocks are a classic toy and for many reasons, not the least of which is the area of mathematics, including concepts and practice with shape, size, and measurement.

Today we work with a small group of children in Room 1 as they stack and build with blocks of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Children at this age are learning to work and play in a group of children, share and take turns with supervision, and play safely with the toys at hand. The blocks serve well for these group goals and for individual goals such as naming colors, counting, pretending, and gaining fine motor finesse.

Here’s a nice article from that breaks down the benefits of block play for kids!

Pull Toys   1.27.22

Today we’re focusing on how beneficial pull-toys are for children. The article below, a blog post from MyFourand, breaks it down very well; this type of toy gives children a chance to exercise on both fine and gross motor levels. Pull-toys foster independence and self-control and build muscle and hand-eye coordination.

To all of the information shared in the article, we’d like to add that for a majority of our children, toys are not always used functionally, that is to say, our children don’t always use toys – or other items – the way they are intended to be used. Legos lined up instead of connected, for example, cars sorted by color instead of “vroomed”, for another. These types of behaviors with toys are common for our kiddos, and teachers work on teaching their students to play “appropriately” with toys, or as the toys are intended, one toy at a time.

When children make progress with this foundational skill set, the possibilities increase for them to be welcomed into play by their peers. When they leave the nurture of Crossroads, they will be accepted by new friends, able to play with them, and as they grow, learn and socialize with others.

Here we can appreciate “L” a Room 6 student and delight in the fun he is having with a dinosaur pull toy. In his play, he is also using his ability to pretend, (something else that is often a deficit for our kiddos developmentally), by talking to the dinosaur and treating it as a pet of sorts.

Benefits of Pull Toys for Young Children

Birthday Party.    1.26.22

Students celebrate their birthdays in class, and we aren’t always able to share those stories. But “C” recently turned 12, and it was a very big deal, not only to him but to many staff members who have come to love him.

C made cupcakes at home and brought them in to share. Mrs. Kathy, our HR Specialist also brought in cupcakes for him, so the food was plentiful. The students in Room 12 were thrilled, of course, and so were all of the friends around the building that C visited with a cupcake.

In terms of social skills practiced during this special snack time, C and his classmates got to participate in the Happy Birthday song, waiting for others to be served before eating, saying “happy birthday” to their friend, making a choice between chocolate and vanilla, and cleaning up when done.

Puzzling Puzzles   1.24.22

We’ve written so many times about the great opportunities for skill-building using puzzles, and we even dedicated a whole month to Puzzles in our Crossroads Challenge Group last year. ( CLICK here to join this year’s challenge! ) Puzzles work fine motor abilities and strengthen fingers, while simultaneously stretching a child’s problem-solving and spatial comprehension skills. Not to mention building tolerance and decreasing frustration over time.

Here we see “T” a Room 3 student tackling a puzzle that looks to be wooden and about 12 pieces, a sturdy challenge for a kiddo as young as he is. Just look at the concentration expressed on that adorable face and you can see his gears working!

We are always so proud of the students for making progress, showing growth in skills! Good for you, “T”!

Say “Cheese!” 1.13.2022

Eye contact is an important aspect of communication and one that many of our students struggle with. That’s why teachers and therapists work on this with them, teaching and reinforcing children for looking, responding to their name, and showing attention in this way.

Here’s a great article found on SocialProNow breaking down the importance of eye contact.

Ms. McKenzie, Room 4′s Special Education Teacher has sent these pictures capturing some of her kiddos responding to their names and smiling. Say cheese is a great strategy to build eye contact and smiles, because immediately she can show the child his/her picture and reinforce him/her for looking and smiling. Children love to look at themselves on camera, so it is a very natural and contextual form of reinforcement.

Vroom   12.20.21

Cars and trucks are favorites for play centers and for good reason. When children play with cars and trucks, they get to be the “driver,” and being the one controlling the movements gives them a sense of control over their environment. They also reap the benefits of fine motor work and gross motor activity, as they manipulate the car and then move to where the car has moved to. If playing with others, there are ample opportunities for turn-taking, competition, cooperation, and modeling. Learning about speed and velocity hands-on is also a benefit.

Here’s a helpful article we found about the benefits of playing with toy cars:

Pictured here we bring you a recent car play center in Room 1 that shows that students have learned to play with cars. It’s important to note that at Crossroads, there can be a lot of work going into learning how to functionally play with any of the toys we share. Many children off the bat prefer to play with the toy in their own way at first, such as stacking, grouping, and lining up the toys rather than playing with the toy in its intended manner. Teachers here work on these skills in steps and sets over time and are always thrilled when a group like the one shown is able to successfully play together.


 House Play 12.15.21

Playing with dolls and a dollhouse, H moves her dolls through the rooms. She gives them a goodnight kiss when it’s time for them to go to bed. Her young hands work to move the dolls, and her mind works to role-play with them.

Children playing with dolls practice colors and positions, feelings, and rooms, and when Room 3 gets the dollhouse out, it’s one that everyone enjoys their turn with, H included. Teacher Ms. Melissa is happy because she has planned the activity center in order to address the very skills named, as well as intricate social skills such as are discussed in an interesting article below.  Researchers from UK’s Cardiff University found that doll play helps children “develop empathy and social processing skills,” when certain brain regions are activated during such play.

We love research that helps inform our practices. Almost as much as H loves the doll she’s kissing goodnight.

Classroom Party! 11.24.21

Celebrations are the best, are they not? The other day, Room 6 had an early Thanksgiving party, with special plates and napkins, placematts, and snacks. Many thanks to the moms who sent in treats to make the day special.

Potato Head  11.24.21

Potato Head toys are so much fun for little ones and offer wonderful opportunities for learning. One obvious spudly benefit is learning body parts as the player builds eyes, nose, ears mouth arms, and feet for the potato. Clothing and accessories are part of the play, too, and here, the kiddos in Room 2 got creative with trying on some of the accessories on their own faces.



Let’s talk about lunch!  11.2.21

Room 12 Teaching Assistant Ms. Danielle helps student N to tell her what he wants for lunch. Yes, he has brought his lunch with him in his lunchbox sent in from home, but here she has him ask her for what else he needs in order to eat it. For example, he can ask for plasticware or a napkin. He might need help to heat his food up in the microwave or get something from the refrigerator. Maybe he needs assistance opening a package.

N uses an assistive technology device to communicate. By learning to tell someone what he wants and needs, he will be able to do so with other people outside of the classroom, such as in a later school, or in his community. Danielle and her team know the importance of teaching communication skills and giving children the practice they need to master those skills, to prepare for successful lives.

This is an example of what people who support Crossroads are supporting.

Functional Toy Play   10.28.21

For a great majority of our students here at Crossroads, the function of a particular toy is not obvious. Stacking legos, “driving” cars, and animating little people are not necessarily the ways our students know how to play with the toys. Some may say, “so what?” and we would say that when a child is playing with toys in the way they are intended to be played with, they will have improved learning from the play, improved communication skills coming from the play, and improved interpersonal skills pertaining to playing with other children with that toy.

That’s why we teach functional play skills here.

There are many goals that children have on their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) addressing specific play and social skills. Each child’s goals are individualized so Child A’s social goals can be quite different from Child B’s.  A child with goals addressing functional play can learn to build a 3 block design, then a 4 block design, and so on. He might learn to move a train along a track, a car along a road, a truck along a path. She might learn to make a cow moo, a horse neigh, a duck quack. All of these skills will build in communication and language skills, increase play actions, and expand play partners.

Children who learn how to play with toys functionally are able to play more independently with other children later on, enjoying cooperative play in groups and duos.

10.10.21 Lego Centers

Children and even many adults enjoy legos. Teachers love to use legos to address color identification, patterning, and building in increasing numbers of blocks. Legos offer fine motor work, problem-solving opportunities, and challenges that relate to engineering. (Check out a cool article below from MIT).

Here in this blog spot, we focus on and can certainly see the many social benefits of playing together in a group with legos. For one thing, being in a group gives students the opportunity to observe what others are doing, and exchange creative ideas. For another, when there is sharing and turn-taking involved, kids learn the balance of advocating for themselves and also thinking of others. Another social aspect at play here is the one of learning to work as a group to build a common project, and yet another is the flow of language as words to describe color, size, shape, and design concepts flow.

Here Room 5 has 3 tables set with different lego tasks at each. Enjoy their cuteness as we show off their progress!

What do Legos have to do with engineering?

Building play skills  9.6.2021

What? Vacation daycare play centers.

When? Over the end of summer break.

Why? Because helping children be successful in life is our mission.

Where? Crossroads Center for Children.

How? By providing structure and guidance, supervision and modeling during play and interactions, our young learners were given opportunities to play and engage with new toys, new friends, and in new places. These experiences coupled with the support of the teachers and therapists lead to the development of the social skills for the children.

8.5.21 PE and Social Skills

It’s a wonderful thing to see children learning new skills in any category, but many of us here at Crossroads would probably say we smile the most when we see the gains in social skills. Social skills overlap with behavior skills and communication skills, and so successful increase of social skills represents the successful carrying out of our mission in so many ways. There are lots of strategies – activities, approaches, lessons, and such – that will address social skills development, as you can see from the other posts in this blog spot. Today we’ll see an example of improvement using Physical Education activities over time to improve social skills at the same time as physical ones.

Here we see Room 7 learners rolling a ball back and forth. When you think of the steps of this activity, you need to go back to the start of the year. Most students at that time had never been away from home before, not in a daycare or a classroom, not with other children all day every day. Learning to tolerate other kids, to trust new adults, to sit for circle or stay with a group for play or eating…. all of this was new. The Special Olympics Young Athletes program all year, incorporated social skills with physical skills, and across the time span of the school year, they’ve learned to play group games together, including rolling a ball to others, catching it when it’s rolled back, and rolling it to another again.

This story is also posted on the Special Olympics blog spot.

12.1.2020 Shape sorting, pattern ma

7.14.21 Multiplayer Games

Just before the break, Ms. Melissa from Room 14 sent in this great picture of two students having a super successful game time together. “Q and V played a multi-player game together on the iPad today, ” she wrote.

There is more conveyed in this simple sentence than one might suppose.

Technological games have a lot of support in terms of developing skills; problem-solving, dexterity, and even reading skills are said to be boosted by playing games on a computer, iPad, or phone. When you add another person to the game, there are the benefits, too, of the social skills we consistently teach, such as sharing, taking turns, communicating, tolerating others, and so on.

For countless children at Crossroads, it takes many, many steps to get here, to an actual game such as you see pictured.  Between the fine details of playing the game itself and the little nuances of playing with another person, there are a lot of skills involved.  For Q and V to sit and play a full game, with little assistance, prompting, or refocusing, it is a full-on achievement, a success story to be shared. The many skills they have worked on have come together in this game.

Thanks to Melissa for sharing this story with us! We are all so proud.


7.1.21 A Last Lunch

Before we broke for summer, last week in Room 7 students shared a table for lunch one last time. Of course, most children at Crossroads will be back in July for Summer Session, but celebrating the year with a time to eat and be together was enjoyed for sure. This class has worked hard this year on their table skills, and getting everyone at this table at one time for a picture is something of an accomplishment!

6.21.21 Picnics

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather to enjoy lunches outdoors is one of the best perks of this season. A picnic is a celebration in and of itself – of a nice day, the people you’re with, and of good times! And a picnic with your class is a fun way to do all of that plus practice the skills that you’ve worked on all year long in your classroom, skills that come with food time, like sharing spaces, eating what parents have packed for us, eating meal items first and dessert items last, conversing with each other, throwing away garbage and not throwing away utensils and dishes that need to go home…

Here are a couple of pictures that Room 14 recently sent in (thank you Room 14) of one of their recent picnics.

6.7.2021 Sound and Tech Toys

If there’s anything kids seem to love, it’s noise-making toys with switches, knobs, and other technological features. There are lots of reasons not to use these toys with babies, but as children get older, this category of toys can help with fine motor skills, problem-solving, critical thinking, and preparing for using technology for other reasons besides play.

Here’s an article we found that readers might find helpful when weighing the benefits of tech toys.

Here, Room 4 included tech toys as a play center. These children were able to transition from the table where there were toy tablets, keyboards, and such, to the rug for playing with dinosaurs. What a great combination for fun and learning.


6.4.21 Superpower Play

We’ve written before about kids becoming superheroes, and the benefits of pretend play, but the new PJ Masks toys are marketed to buyers to help children learn problem-solving, social, and emotional skills via the superpowers that PJ Masks has.

Here’s an article for more:

It’s why one of our teachers asked specifically for these toys recently on our wish list, and thanks to one of our kind families, we received a bag full of them yesterday. The kids were excited to get the new toys, and to start playing. Mrs. Danielle, the teacher, has plans for incorporating the toys into learning activities to help her students build the skills they need.

5.12.2021 Cause and Effect Games

To play Dragon Snacks, you have to wave your hand in front of the dragon’s tummy, get clues from his nose, and reach into his mouth to get the treasure. Think of all of the cause and effect that this game fosters. With turn-taking involved there’s also a bit of competition and teamwork involved. It’s a favorite in Room 3.

Why is cause and effect important? Because children need to know that their behaviors and actions create results. This is conceptual knowledge that is the foundation for understanding concepts in literacy, science, and socialization. Here’s a great video about this subject found at 1to1 Autism

4.27.2021 Dress Up Play

Dress up play sparks imagination, fosters fine motor skills and boosts language and communication, says this article found at, and we know it to be true from experience. When children dress up as different characters, professions, and personalities, they get to experience new perspectives and challenge themselves in new ways.

Here are some precious moments from Room 14 recently. These boys were given costume sets that were donated by a parent, and each child got his own. They became superheroes, touring the school with their teachers to look for problems to solve, people to help. In one case they rescued some plants that needed to be watered, while in another, they fed some fish who were desperately hungry.

Of course, the positive reinforcement that comes with doing good deeds is helpful in building the very skills that are desired and being worked on in the classroom, like helping others, using communication skills, and working together. Room 14’s here to save the day!!

4.21.2021 Kitchen Play

When it’s time to play with the kitchens, Room 7‘s students are cooking! There are foods, dishes and utensils to put into the oven, onto the stove, and so on. As students practice with these objects, they are exploring spatial concepts, and acquiring important language skills. This is a great example of parallel play, where children are playing alongside others. Even though they are yet interacting as much as they will later on, they are still observing each other and gaining clues from their actions.

Here’s a great article about the stages of play, by

At another table, the children are playing with shape magnets. These are beautifully colored and each shape is framed by a magnetic rim, for building and constructing. While at this center, the children are encouraged to locate pieces by shape and color, and to add it to the construction underway, thereby giving the children practice with language skills, shapes and colors.

Both centers are set up for skill development and lots of fun!


4.21.2021 Board Games.

Have you been following our #Crossroads21Challenge group on Facebook? It’s been a lot of fun – each month a different classroom decides on a challenge and people can share their pictures and experiences. Getting to know people from different aspects of our community is wonderful. Right now, the challenge is #GAMES. If you head to that group right now, you’ll catch lots of our students playing games in their classrooms. Games are an important part tool for social skills development, and our classrooms select games that are geared to the particulars of the children in the group.

For today, though, we have games in Room 14. These children have been working on games all year. Some of the goals for this group are expanding the repertoire of activities beyond preferred ones, tolerating others in proximity, playing in a group of children, taking turns, and sportsmanship, to name just a few. As you can see, they are doing great on all counts!

4.7.2021 Books on the Rug

It’s true that we usually think of book time as academic time. Literacy development is surely a critical aspect of educational programming with many parts and portions of its own. But there’s also a social aspect of sharing books that can’t go unsung, and that is what today’s story is about.

Ms. Jena, Room 4‘s teacher gives the children a time slot each day to hang out on the rug with each other and read. Most of these youngsters can’t really read in the adult sense of the word, however by being exposed to a variety of books at various levels, they are developing valuable literacy skills that will help their reading abilities develop. Additionally and pertaining to this article is the matter of social skills, something that is also deeply important for our Crossroads students. Here are 5 social skills that are targeted at this time:

  1. Tolerating others in a group space. Many children prefer to be on their own, but it’s not realistic to go through life in solitary. So, decreasing resistance to being part of a group in a shared space is important.
  2. Understanding personal space. When in a group space, there are boundaries to personal space that youngsters don’t comprehend until they learn them. Book time on the rug is the perfect setting to establish personal space using markers on the rug and corners of the area.
  3. Waiting patiently. Kids typically want it and they want it now. It’s part of life to have to wait and to be patient while waiting. When kids share a bin of books, the opportunity is likely to have to wait for a desired book that is being enjoyed by a friend.
  4.  Sharing and taking turns. These are actually two different things but for the sake of keeping things simple for this purpose, let’s just say that a bin of books offers a bin of opportunities to share books and take turns with books. Further, some of the books are being read aloud by a team member, requiring the students to take turns in selecting the book to be read and to share the attention of the adult.
  5. Modeling. Some students are recognizing the front and back of the book, while others are reading words. Some are identifying letters, and some are pointing to pictures. Being part of a group of rich diversity allows everyone to learn from each other, make efforts that wouldn’t come to mind on one’s own.

3.23.2021 Figures and Buildings

There are endless benefits of play to a child’s learning. Important concepts such as colors, labels, quantities, and sizes of things are communicated by parents and teachers when playing with children. Toys have names, they have substance and qualities that give the child a greater understanding of the world we live in.

In Room 3 some of the concepts children are working on are prepositions. In, out, on, off, next to, between over, under… the difference between them can be tricky for children. That makes this playgroup a great one. There are buildings – here a treehouse and a farm – and there are figures – little figures of animals are used today. The classroom team guides students, for instance, to put the horse IN, or to put the cow ON, and so on. The children are in small groups, center-style, and will switch after a certain time period.

Along with prepositions, social skills such as turn-taking, playing within a group of children, sharing, and staying seated in a short group, are all getting a work-out. This year alone, the kiddos in Room 3 have improved their skills in this area in so many ways.

3.2.2021 Building and Connecting

Opportunities to construct are important for young children. Toys that connect to each other help children learn how objects are used together, and how things work. Children can be creative when building, and also might enjoy watching what other children are doing with similar toys.

Children in Room 7 enjoyed playing with interlocking blocks and bubble beads recently in play centers. Connecting the blocks and beads, and taking them apart again, naming the colors, and showing their work to teachers and friends were just some of the skills the students accomplished here.

2.12.2021 Approaching Others.

One of the things Room 7 works on throughout the year is increasing students’ interactions with others. Whether this comes about verbally, via a P.E.C.S. book, or by use of an assistive device, it is important for children to learn to communicate rather than being dependent upon others to anticipate or guess their needs. So, via games, art projects, one-to-one sessions, and so on, responding to and initiating interactions with others is a big part of their school day.

In this activity, the class made cards for some of the other departments around the school for Valentine’s Day. Then they went on a little walk through the building to deliver them. They knocked on doors, said Happy Valentine’s Day, and interacted as the delighted recipient of their approach thanked them, admired the card, and complimented their work. Getting everyone to look at the camera at the same time, however, was a whole different thing!

2.4.2021 Self Acceptance.

It’s said that self-acceptance is the first step to positive interpersonal relationships.

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves”… Dalai Lama (xiv)

— Dalai Lama (xiv)

 “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” …..Gautam Buddha

— Gautam Buddha

Yet self-acceptance is almost always tricky for pre-tweens; it’s just a tricky time in one’s life. And when special needs are in play as well, social skills – including those with oneself – are further complicated.

That’s why Room 11 works on helping students to value their positive qualities and those of others. By incorporating writing skills, affirmations, and art into the classroom, students are developing social skills, starting with self-acceptance.

The portraits were done by Mr. Joey, TA.


1.19.2021 Playing Games.

These pictures from Room 14 actually go back a couple of months, but today, we want to talk about games and their benefits.

At Crossroads, board games are frequently used to address social skills that students need to work on. Indeed, all children, and even adults, can use board games to improve skills with interacting and communicating. However, many of our students need extra help to learn to play with others and express themselves.

Some of the things that you can see in these pictures from Room 14 include:

  • Sitting with or near others, and increasing tolerance for others in one’s proximity.
  • Taking turns
  • Staying focused on the goal of the game
  • Being patient when it’s someone else’s turn.
  • Following rules.
  • Losing gracefully
  • Congratulating others when they win.
  • Collaborating in team play.

Here’s a great article from Scholastic with even more benefits of playing board games.

Shape sorting, pattern making, and cleaning up when asked, in Room 6.      12.1.2020

A recent visit to this classroom found children engaging in Play Centers in small groups and in direct instruction. Red bear, blue bear, red bear, blue bear, what comes next? When children learn how to complete a pattern they are building skills that help them later with mathematics, music, environmental observation, and reading. It’s a skill that many of our children work on here at Crossroads,

Another play center was shape sorters. This type of activity forms a child’s spatial awareness, and exercises their fine motor ability.

In addition to the fun of making patterns and sorting shapes students also were working on cleaning up skills. Following the group direction that it was time to clean up, youngsters trooped around the room and picked up any out of place toys and materials, and were heartily rewarded by their teachers with lots of praise.

Great job, Room 6!

11.25.2020 Little Hands and Little Toys

There’s no question that children enjoy toys, but playing with toys actually benefits children, too. Youngsters learn new motor skills – both fine and gross motor – when playing with toys. Cognitive skills are created and strengthened such as problem-solving, color, shape and functional understanding, and pretend skills. Social skills are also fortified when kids play near or with others as they do in their classrooms. They watch and imitate each other, and use their toys to interact with their environment and each other.

It’s always amazing to watch kids hard at play, and that’s why we have this story to share with you. Room 1 contains some of our youngest children, and learning to play with toys is still somewhat of a new experience for many. Two months ago, when our Fall Session began, learning Play Center routines was somewhat challenging for many of the classrooms, including this one. But now in November, there’s already so much progress in how the students are playing, happily and with focus.

Great job, Room 1!

Social Centers in Room 5    11.1.2020

Whether it’s building with bristle blocks, linking with math link cubes or playing a board game, when you do it with others, there’s so much to learn.

Students in Room 5 on this occasion are engaging in centers. This means that they will all rotate through the offered activities, and get a chance to try all three. As the groups rotate, they learn from each other and from the teacher stationed at each center, as well as from their own experimentation.

Children need to learn to work together in ways such as this. As the grow up, the world is full of opportunities for collaboration and interaction. Groups such as this one help them prepare for those future experiences. Students are successful not just today, but for their lives.

10.26.2020 Puzzles are important for lots of reasons!

From eye-hand coordination, to shape recognition, puzzles are developmentally beneficial. Children work on puzzles in every room, moving from puzzles with one piece to several, to many as their skills improve. Most of our teachers are keen on the wooden puzzles, which are hardy and also theme-based, however, cardboard or foam puzzles and interlocking ones are also handy depending upon the child and his or her current ability and interest.

Here’s a really great article about the benefits of puzzles, by Premium Joy:

In Room 4 recently, students played on the rug with lots of choices of puzzles. There were firetrucks and dinosaurs, farm vehicles, and farm animals. Everyone was engaged and successful, and team members were close by to offer help as needed.

As puzzles are a lifelong leisure interest, these little guys are working now on something they can get better at forever. Great job, Room 4!

Dollhouses with Room 3   10.5.2020

Dollhouses are a wonderful way to teach kids to play with lots of things, including but not limited to dolls alone.

For instance, in a recent play session in Room 3, students were grouped in small groups and got to interact with little people, animals, cars, and each other in and around the house. This activity helps kids who are working to understand concepts such as in and out, up and down, under and over, beside, next to and in between.

It also gives children opportunities for imaginative play; acting out interactions between characters and environments is an important aspect of childhood social development.

Here’s a nice article we found on with some tips for encouraging imaginative play:

We’re very thankful for donations and grants that help us acquire the materials and supplies needed for our students to work on social skills at school. please visit our DONATE page if you’d also like to contribute.

Back to school   9.18.20

…..and back to lunches in the classroom. Children are physically distanced at their tables, but they’re still able to interact, enjoy each other’s company, and get a little bit silly. This visit was chock full of social skills, despite the increased focus on distancing!

Greeting Others.  9.1.2020

Say hello to B. This little guy is here to say hello to you this morning. Something he’s been working hard on has been “opening up” around others: greeting them, exchanging conversation, and answering social questions. Today, he is all smiles, as he confidently approaches and greets some administrative staff during the school-break. He is assisted by Ms. Erene, Behavior Technician.


8.21.2020 It’s the last day of ESY (Extended School Year, also known as “summer session” and Room 4 is enjoying their lunch together. You can see that they’re eating nicely, but you can’t hear their conversation, which includes labeling food items, asking questions of others, answering questions from others. Topics include the tee-shirts they’re all wearing, made in class, who has a “room” and what’s in their room, and where everyone will be in the fall. Social skills have come so far this year!

 Toddler Play, with Room 2    8.17.2020

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

Watching Room 2’s young learners at play is heart-warming and interesting. Ms. Kim’s classroom is fun to step foot into, and is set up with environmental cues and boundaries, making it easy for children to move through transitions and understand the function and expectations in the various areas. There’s a lot of cheerful art and cues around, too, aligning with the set up of the room. When children are situated in the play area, as they are at this moment, there are many choices and options, all appealing. While they graze from one to the next toy, they interact through sight, touch, smell, and sound, and taking things out to inspect them is constant. These toddlers move among the many fun toys and play equipment available for several minutes, and then Kim introduces musical instruments, which causes all eyes and bodies to pivot to her and to join her in music making. How wonderful!

Social Skills Development – Back together is where we belong! 7.29.2020

For our kiddos, social skills often come hard. Whether a student is working on developing language and communication for interacting with others, or learning how to play functionally with toys, the skills for socialization and play are targeted throughout his/her day by teachers and therapists.

This morning, students in this classroom, Room 3 started their day with hand-washing and snack, and then had play activities, each child working on goals for his own education plan. You’ll notice that each teacher below has a clipboard or two in front of her, and is taking data on the child’s responses or actions on the goals that this setting gives opportunities for. With a variety of toys on the table, this group is working on a plethora of different goals. One boy is working on responding to his peers, another on initiating greetings to others. One is practicing manipulating pieces into a shape sorter, while another is identifying numbers. One is waiting for his turn with a preferred toy, and another is asking questions of others. Teachers are giving directions, or there are natural environmental prompts within the opportunity at hand, and noting the responses that the child makes, then giving further prompts as needed to shape the behavior or response to what is wanted.

It’s very clear that this group of learners enjoys being together again, where they are able to interact with each other, model each other, and have fun as a group.

7.28.2020 Reopening this summer has had many changes in the wake of COVID-19. But one thing that  hasn’t changed is how food times tend to be good times to practice social skills.

When students have lunch in their classrooms, first they wash hands and get their lunch boxes. These are important skills for life that involve health and independence. Eating at designated spots at their tables involves developmental skills in the realms of spatial awareness and attending to boundaries.

But the skills that have to do with communication and interaction are closely knit with developing social skills that will help with relationships going forward. Here’s what we can see:

  • Talking to/communicating with friends as able.
  • Asking for help (with a wrapper or straw).
  • Cleaning up one’s own trash and spills.
  • Offering help to another, or helping another when asked.
  • Responding to teachers to the level able.
  • Exploring humor and silliness!

Thanks to Room 5 for the fun visit and after-lunch pictures today!

3.26.2020 Update

With school closed for the second week in a row over the COVID-19 virus, this post is to offer a resource for addressing snack time for our at home learners. This activity is shared by Ms. Rebecca, Room 5’s Childhood Education Teacher, and is one of the activities she emailed to her parents just this morning. It goes along with WACKY WEDNESDAY of this week’s Virtual Spirit Week, and also gives her students a chance to be creative with food!

Found on, this link will show you how make rainbow toast. What better way to make bread WACKY than to paint on it. Here’s a website that tells you how:

Thank you, Rebecca, for this wonderful share!


What happens when you’re home from school due to a seriously contagious virus? Your child is asking for his friends and teachers, or her speech therapist, or lunch buddy.

We’re all in this crummy COVID-19 virus boat together, and the team members at Crossroads are working hard to help. Here’s a YouTube video found and shared by Room 12‘s Special Education Teacher, Mrs. Erin, that might just be the ticket to helping your child understand why he or she can’t play with friends right now.

Social Skills Development with a new classroom pet! 2.1.2020

There’s a new friend in town, and his name is Buster! Room 11 has adopted a dwarf hamster and the students agree that he is a super cute pal. But Buster isn’t just here for his soft fur and cute face; he’s really here to help the children work on skills. What can we learn from a hamster? All sorts of things. Social skills, for instance, like increasing compassion and caring through feeding and watering. Turn-taking, and sharing of responsibility. Talking to him so he won’t be afraid in his new home. Routing him on when he’s running in his hamster wheel. Being gentle and petting him with just a finger, because he is so little.

Buster, we’re glad you are here to help!


Practicing play skills takes many forms, and leads to wonderful gains. These preschoolers have grown so much this year in their ability to play with toys together in a group, to take turns, to give a toy or item to another person, and so much more!

*We are always thankful for donations and grants that help support and expand our programming resources for social skills development!  


One of our most important programming areas is Social Skills Development.

Learning to play, to be with other children, to take turns, play with toys the way they’re intended to be played with, to share… these are some of the skills that are foundations of success in school, families and work later on.

Sometimes a child needs lots of teaching in order to know how to play. Teachers and therapists work consistently, sometimes using modeling strategies, or visual strips with steps of what to do with the toy.

For example, playing with legos. Perhaps a child had previously lined up the legos along a wall, whereas the function of them is to build. The teacher might teach this skill by starting with telling the child to “build,” then modeling it by putting one lego upon another, then asking the student again to “build.” Once the individual has acquired what to do with just 2 legos, the teacher would add a third lego and then a fourth, and so on until they are building and playing with a whole lot of legos. This is the work of ABA, to break the skill down and let the child learn at his or her own pace, always reinforcing their progress.

Thus, when a child who has not been independent before with a play skill gets a toy and plays independently, it is a really big deal. The Room 3 team was greatly excited and proud of a student who has been working on independent play with legos, who recently became successful with this significant skill!

“Wanna play?” 11.20.19

Words everyone remembers from their childhood when a peer runs up to you on the playground and asks if you’re in for a game or romp through the slides. Whether with cars, dinosaurs, dolls, or legos, play is a basic element of childhood that many kids intrinsically grasp easily and naturally.

But, at Crossroads, we know that not everyone knows how to play.

Not naturally, not intrinsically, and certainly not easily.

Many kids, especially those with special needs, need help to learn how.

Play is a term that encompasses everything from dolls to toy trains, from Trouble to soccer, from house to superheroes. Play builds skills in every area of life, from independence to interaction, from attending to transitioning, from people skills to school skills to job skills.

Playing with a toy in its intended manner, interacting with others in ways that are positive, using one’s time in fun and healthy ways, engaging in new activities to build variety and interests…. so many things to learn! Yes, it’s an area that’s tremendously important to work on with children.

All of Crossroads Center for Children’s classrooms, whether preschool or school age, have toys, games, and most importantly, a time set aside for the class to work on play skills. Some classrooms call it social skills, others call it play centers, but no matter the name, the skill set being worked on is play. Play and social skills are further addressed during other group times, such as Circle, Centers, Art, Music, Physical Education. The progress of the individual children in the classroom is facilitated through strategically planning activities, interactions, and opportunities to target each students’ particular goals.

How are play skills taught? The same way as other skills at the school are addressed – by breaking the skills down into more manageable sets and steps, by modeling the steps, by gradually lessening the prompting, and by taking data so that progress is truly measurable. For example, when teaching how to build with legos, rather than lining them up, the teacher might start with having the child stack just 2 legos, and reinforcing this achievement each time the child succeeds. When the child is consistently successful with 2 legos, he or she can work with 3, and so on. In this manner, little by little, students make gains that they can carry over into other, generalized settings. Armed with knowing how to play, the child is more able to join in and play with others when “wanna play?” is asked by a peer.



3.19.2019 What’s so important about social skills?

Especially when there are so many “important” things, like addition and spelling to conquer. After all, aren’t social skills simply picked up from regular daily activities? They’ll come naturally, right?
From listening to others to taking turns in conversations….. from staying calm with others to asking for help when we need it….. from apologizing to saying “thank you” and “you’re welcome”….. social skills are downright important. And often hard to learn.
Truth be told it’s frequently the case that children learn skills through their experiences, “picking them up” as they go through their days. It’s great when that happens, but it’s not always how it goes. For the majority of the children we serve at Crossroads Center for Children, there is a deep need for more attention to targeted instruction of social skills.
That’s why social skills are continually being taught in our classrooms. All of the classrooms plan play and social activities based entirely on the needs of their students. They set up scenarios and provide opportunities that will help the skills to be “picked up”.
 Wikipedia defines a social skill as “any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning these skills is called socialization”.
Of that definition, the morsel about the process of learning social skills is pretty important here at Crossroads Center for Children. We aim to help children prepare for success in life. We know from research and 20 years of actual experience with children that time spent teaching social skills has benefits in all areas of their development. Social skills are no small part of life success.  It’s easy to see the connection between social skills and skills in other areas of learning. Social skills can be seen as building blocks for other domains of life and learning. And, online, it’s easy to find articles – both scholarly and otherwise – on the topic of social skills development. Searchers can find abundant reading material specific to children with Autism, children with developmental special needs, and children in general.

While there are variations on the theme of which particular social skills are most important for success in life, most of us would agree that there are levels or stages that children move through. In teaching social skills, parents and teachers wouldn’t expect a higher level skill from a child who hasn’t yet achieved an earlier one. It would be like expecting an infant who hasn’t yet held his own head up to demonstrate the physical control over his body to run a race or play a game of soccer.
Since we have children across the autism spectrum as well as across the even larger spectrum of child development, our teachers and therapists are experts at assessment and evaluation. They are ingeniously able to pinpoint what skills their students have mastered and what needs to be addressed next.  As an ABA school our teachers go about teaching social skills with precision in planning and articulation of what skills are being targeted and what activities, including materials and location as well as other details, will help to bring about those skills for their children.

No two children are exactly alike, and students may be working on skills in more than one level or stage at a time. This is true for kids with Autism and also for children without disabilities who are typically developing peers here for daycare and nursery school.

So some children are practicing non-verbal social skills, such as tolerating being in close proximity with others, or tolerating physical contact. Some are working on verbal skills, like etiquette and manners, as well as conversational skills.  On the other hand, learning to recognize emotions by name, or label the members of one’s family is another important area for social skills development.  Important in order to become aware of one’s own emotions and those of others, and one’s own family.  Students learn about and develop relationships with family and friends. They learn to self-regulate and cooperate and think of the feelings and needs of others.  They develop play skills, and progress from isolate play to parallel play to cooperative play, dramatic play, and general play.

It’s amazing for a child to learn to tolerate the proximity of others when that used to be overwhelming. It’s a precious achievement to learn to ask for a turn, or to be able to enjoy sitting with peers to listen to a story. As it is to learn to ask for a Lego, for a break or some space when needed.  Families who gain family dinner once their child learns to sit at the table share with teachers the hugeness of their happiness. As do the parents of the child who learns to say “thank you” and later learns to spell those same words, to write them and draw a picture for his grandmother who sent him a birthday gift.
Yes, social skills are important in life. We know they are.


3.13.19 In the classrooms of Crossroads, snack and lunch times are frequently much more than simply snack time or lunch time.

In addition to taking in needed nourishments and hydration, another important aspect of snack and lunch times, is the social skills that are impacted. Snack time and lunch time are times each day for students to sit at the table with their friends.

If you’re an observer during snack time or lunch time,  you’ll notice many cool tasks happening at the table. You’ll see children interacting and modeling appropriate eating routines. You’ll notice them trying new foods and following through on foods Mom and Dad wanted their little one to eat.


Beyond the Healthy Food Program activities that are done in the classrooms each week, snack times are often the times when teachers will introduce a new healthy item to the classroom.
Frequently a child who previously found the appearance of new foods aversive will show improved tolerance when a new food appears while a familiar and preferred one is present.


Young children will often watch each other for cues of how to behave, making snack time and lunch time great points in the day for them to adopt new foods into their  repertoires.

Considering that our Healthy Food Program is guided by a vision that all children in our care will improve their individual eating habits during their time with  us, and grow to be healthy, pro-nourished individuals, our teachers and therapists are always finding fantastic ways to work on the eating challenges that take our special needs population by storm. For our young students, too, healthy eating is something to be learned early for best health through life. Much positive reinforcement is given for the healthy eating steps that children take.

There are several more social, attending and self-care aspects of snack time, too. For example, retrieving snacks from cubbies and backpacks when requested by the teachers, remaining in seats with others at a table for an established duration of time, cleaning up after selves when snack time is done, throwing away trash in the bin, while saving utensils and dishes that need to be washed. For young children these are all skills to be practiced with consistency in order that our students grow to function with maximum independence in life. This also serves as a time to teach communication skills. Teachers and Teaching Assistants teach their students to label the items in lunch boxes, so that they learn to request those foods by name. They work with children to say, “cracker,”, “juice,” and “done.”  They help children to say, “do you want one?”, “yes please” and “no thank you.”



We’re always proud of our students’ progress and gains with all the skills they work on during the school day, as well as hearing the great things they are doing at home. If you have a story about a skill your child has learned or practiced during snack time or meal time at home, please leave us a comment! We’d love to hear from you!

Play skills are among the building blocks of civilization, are they not? 6.4.2019

And with opportunities for play, our teachers and therapists address many of the goals our students are working on in the areas of interaction, following directions, motor activity, and more.

“Play is the beginning of knowledge.”  George Dorsey, American anthropologist and ethnographer.

At Crossroads Center for Children, there are many different classrooms and therapy settings. Targeted play and social skills are incorporated throughout the day in a variety of ways, such as centers, group games, and often as part of an academic or conceptual lesson.

Toys and favorite play activities are frequently and strategically used as reinforcers for good working. Building on these moments of inter-connection, staff members grasp moments to expand on current interests, and pave the way for new understanding and skills. Opportunities to expand pretend skills and the fun of being silly together are part of the magic.

Engaging children in play situations happens in many ways. The moments captured here allow us a glimpse of some of the teaching techniques used. Depending upon the individual needs of each child, teachers and therapists will use strategies such as shadowing, modeling, hand-over-hand assistance, proximity, and verbal prompting.

It’s also important to build on a solid foundation, so teachers spend the time and attention to break down skills into parts that are manageable for the individuals they are working with.


Kids learn from adults and from the other kids they are with. Teachers often put certain students together in center groups in order that they can learn from each other. At Crossroads you’ll also find that the grown-ups play and interact with their students, modeling the skills desired.

Play skills are among the building blocks of civilization, because this is the arena wherein people learn to ask for a turn, share with others, share information, act as a member of a group, and form bonds with other people. In their own homes and communities these skills lead well to life skills, school skills, and job skills.

If you’re looking for ideas of activities and ways that our therapists and teachers use to build all manner of skills with the students here at Crossroads, read some of our other posts. As always, we welcome comments on things that are working well for you, too.


Healthy Food Program – Getting Kids to Eat New FoodsLearning at Crossroads