Developing Social Skills IEP Goals: Your Guide with Examples 

Social skills are crucial for the successful interaction and integration of students with special needs in various environments. This guide is designed to assist educators in formulating effective Social Skills IEP goals that enhance interpersonal interactions, understanding of social cues, and positive peer relationships.

Understanding the Importance of Social Skills

Social skills involve the ability to communicate, interact, and form relationships with others effectively. They include understanding and using verbal and nonverbal cues, cooperating with peers, and adapting to different social situations. For students with special needs, mastering these skills is key to navigating social environments and fostering meaningful relationships.

The Significance of Social Skills in IEP Goals

Integrating social skills goals into an IEP is vital for the holistic development of students with special needs. These goals aim to enhance the student’s ability to engage positively with others, build friendships, and participate in group settings effectively.

Creating SMART Social Skills IEP Goals

Specific: Goals should precisely address areas of social interaction, such as initiating conversations, understanding nonverbal cues, or sharing and taking turns.

Measurable: Establish clear metrics to assess progress in social interactions and behaviors.

Achievable: Set realistic goals that consider the student’s current social skills and developmental level.

Relevant: Ensure the goals are pertinent to the student’s social and educational needs.

Time-bound: Assign a specific timeframe for achieving the goals.

Social Skills IEP Goals and Compliance

Developing Social Skills IEP goals requires careful consideration to align with the student’s Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) and to comply with relevant legal requirements. These goals should be individualized, reflecting the unique social challenges and strengths of each student, and provide a clear framework for tracking progress.

  1. Alignment with PLAAFP: The goals must be directly linked to the social skills aspects identified in the student’s PLAAFP, ensuring they address the most relevant and pressing needs in their social development.

  2. Legal Compliance: Adhere to the standards set by educational laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), guaranteeing that the goals support the student’s right to a free and appropriate public education.

  3. Individualized and Specific: Tailor each goal to suit the individual circumstances of the student, ensuring they are practical, specific, and relevant to the student’s daily interactions and social experiences.

  4. Measurable Progress: Establish clear, observable criteria for measuring progress towards each goal, allowing for regular assessment and adjustment if necessary.

Disclaimer: The examples of social skills goals provided in this guide are intended to serve as templates. It’s crucial to customize each goal to align with the unique needs and abilities of the student, ensuring they are both challenging and achievable.

Social Skills IEP Goals Samples

Interpersonal Communication

  • By (date), the student will initiate conversations with peers in a school setting in 4 out of 5 opportunities.

  • By (date), the student will maintain eye contact during conversations for at least 3 out of 5 interactions.

  • By (date), the student will appropriately use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in social interactions in 8 out of 10 opportunities.

Understanding Social Cues

  • By (date), the student will identify and respond to basic nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language, in 3 out of 5 scenarios.

  • By (date), the student will interpret and respond to peers’ emotions correctly in 4 out of 5 role-play situations.

  • By (date), the student will recognize and respect personal space boundaries in 9 out of 10 interactions.

Group Participation and Cooperation

  • By (date), the student will engage in a group activity, contributing ideas and listening to others in 4 out of 5 group sessions.

  • By (date), the student will follow group rules and take turns in games or group activities in 8 out of 10 instances.

  • By (date), the student will work collaboratively with a peer to complete a class project, demonstrating positive teamwork in 3 out of 4 projects.


By integrating tailored social skills goals into a student’s IEP, educators can significantly contribute to the student’s ability to engage, communicate, and build relationships. These skills are fundamental for students’ social development and overall well-being.

Get a personalized demo of the Ori Learning platform.

Jon Izak

Jon Izak is the founder and CEO of Ori Learning.

author avatar
Jon Izak
Jon Izak is the founder and CEO of Ori Learning.