Socialization of Special Learners

Socializing exceptional students in the Inclusion classroom

Helpful Hints and Tips from Learning Team A

Burl Bishop, Amber Lewis, Danielle McCarthy, and Stephanie Underwood

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The inclusion classroom provides an excellent opportunity for students with disabilities to be educated alongside their non-disabled peers. Part of creating a successful inclusion setting involves making sure all students have a feeling of belonging in their classroom (Promoting Positive Social Interactions, n.d.). Studies have shown many positive benefits a student receives when he or she feels accepted in the classroom. These include:

  • Improved self-image
  • Enhanced enthusiasm to succeed
  • Greater speed of adjustment to the classroom & increased demands that go with it
  • Behavior is better
  • Overall level of achievement is more pronounced (Promoting Positive Social Interactions, n.d.)

The purpose of this flyer is to assist you in the socialization of students with physical disabilities, orthopedic impairments, other health impairments, traumatic brain injury, or severe sensory disorder. You will find typical socialization issues experienced by these exceptional students, tips for assisting them with socialization in the inclusion setting, and strategies for building their self-image, which is key to improving socialization skills.

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Typical Socialization Issues and strategies


  • Research and observation clearly demonstrates that individuals with learning disabilities tend to be less accepted by peers, interact awkwardly and inappropriately in social situations and are socially imperceptive (Currie & Kahn, 2012).
  • Students with learning disabilities often demonstrate more problems in social competence than do their peers without disabilities (Currie & Kahn, 2012).
  • Whether they lack friends, get into fights, or feel they are misunderstood, children with learning disabilities most likely will experience additional confusion, sadness, and anxiety that may already be present as a result of the learning disabilities themselves (Currie & Kahn, 2012).


  • The first strategy is to identify specific conduct that is disruptive and relate it to a particular behavior (Anjeh, 2011).
  • Encouraging new behavior by focusing behavior management systems on positive, pro-social replacement will provide students with the opportunities to practice and be reinforced for appropriate behaviors (Anjeh, 2011).
  • The pro-social behaviors would include taking turns; working with a partner; working in groups, or with others; displaying appropriate behaviors toward peers; increasing positive relationships; showing interest and caring; and settling conflicts without fighting (Anjeh, 2011).
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Tips for Socializing Students into an Inclusion Setting

  • Teach communication skills directly to students and include peers.
  • Teach mobility strategies and supports to peers.
  • Teach friendship skills in low risk settings.
  • Connect students with disabilities through summers and weekends.
  • Allow time for friendship development.
  • Help students with disabilities to assume valued roles in school.
  • Implement a culture of friendship diversity.
(Parker, 2011)
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Strategies for Building Self-Concept

Teaching skills for problem solving (Best, Heller & Bigge, 2010)

  • Know how to work on creating solutions to a problem

Teaching skills for asking for help (Best, Heller & Bigge, 2010)

  • Build on the communication skills to know how and when to ask for assistance

Teaching independence

  • Learning basic daily living skills
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Socialization skills transcend the classroom environment and transition with the student into their post-secondary life. When a student has built strong social skills, he or she is better able to foster positive friendships, achieve success in school, and be more prepared to effectively take on post-secondary responsibilities (Bremer & Smith, 2004). The inclusion classroom provides a valuable opportunity for students with disabilities to develop and fine-tune their social skills. We hope that this information has provided valuable tips that you can use in your classroom to assist our exceptional learners in developing their social skills.


Anjeh, D. (2011, Spring). Dealing with emotional, behavioral and physical disabilites. Journal of Research in Special Education Needs, 20(1).

Best, S. J., Heller, K. W., & Bigge, J. L. (2010). Teaching Individuals with Physical or Multiple

Disabilities. Pearson Education, Inc.

Bremer, C., & Smith, J. (2004). Teaching social skills. Addressing Trends and Developments in Secondary Education and Transition,3(5). Retrieved from

Currie, J., & Kahn, R. (2012, Spring). Children with Disabilities: Introducing the issues. Journal of Special Education, 22(1).

Parker, A. T. (2011, Spring/Summer). Supporting Friendship Development for Students with Low-Incidence Disabilities. Impact, 24(1).

Promoting positive social interactions in an inclusion setting. (n.d.). NASET LD Report, (7), 1-11. Retrieved from