5 Steps for Pinpointing Social Skills

Pinpointing answers the simple question of “what am I teaching?” A pinpoint is a clear description and countable unit of behavior in a specific context. Pinpoints help for clarity across teams, so you know a behavior when you see it. Being social and having social skills does not come easy for some. It can be difficult for the children and clients to engage in social skills, but it can also be difficult for the providers and teams to identify. They keep everyone on the team of a client stay on the same page, as well as making it easier to reinforce and measure. While working on social skills for a client there are four different areas that can be targeted. These include conversations, groupwork, classroom participation, and emotional regulation. Here are the five steps to creating a pinpoint for social skills. 

  1. Select a behavior with the furthest reaching effect. The first question to ask is “what is the biggest problem behavior?” This could also include a problem behavior that is common to all various problems. 
  2. Make sure this behavior passes the “dead person’s test.” This is a technique that asks the simple question of “can a dead person perform the behavior.” If you answer yes, the dead man can do that behavior, then select a different behavior to practice or change. Behaviors like laying down, staying in seat, and being quiet would not pass the “dead person’s test.”
  3. Create a movement cycle. The movement cycle must be observable, repeatable, and contains movement. The first step would be selecting an action verb such as raise, say, or shift. Next, make the verb present tense like says or raises. Last, select the singular object that the verb will act upon. This creates movement cycles like raises hand, stacks block, or shifts gaze. 
  4. Complete pinpoint by adding context. This is where and when you want the behavior to occur. Adding context could include phrases like “during play” and “when meeting a new person.” Context is the difference between a behavior being socially acceptable and socially awkward. You do not want your client to raise their hand while sitting at the dinner table, but you do want your client to raise their hand while sitting in class. Putting the movement cycle with the context creates the desired pinpoint. This could look like “stacks block during play,” or “shakes hand when meeting a new person.” 
  5. The last step is testing the pinpoint. An effective pinpoint captures everything you are measuring and excludes everything you are not measuring. Then have others count the targeted pinpoint and compare answers. These are tactics to ensure that your pinpoint created is accurate and keeps the team on the same page. 

There are five major areas that you could apply your newly created pinpoint to for your child’s goals. While working on the first area, conversations, you could pinpoint behaviors like changing topics, responding to a teacher/adult when a greeting is given, or asking open ended questions. If the child or client’s goal is responding to a teacher’s greeting then the pinpoint could state, “shifts gaze and says greeting statement to adult after adult greets them.” For groupwork, pinpoints could focus on the child offering suggestions or looking at a peer when saying an answer. Pinpoints created for classroom participation looking at speaker during teacher lead directives, raising hand, or getting folder. Emotional regulation is one of the more difficult areas to create pinpoints for. These social skills focus on identifying when the client needs to use a relaxation tool when triggered, and then utilizing relaxation tools. By using the five steps listed above to create a pinpoint, a potential pinpoint could be “uses relaxation tool when cued by adult.” 

Pinpoints are helpful for several reasons, like keeping behavior descriptions clear and measurable. Creating a pinpoint with these five steps will keep all the providers on the same page when it comes to the client’s behaviors. This is important for accurate data collection and measurement, as well as reinforcement. First identify the target behavior that passes the “dead person’s test,” create a movement cycle, add context, and then test it. Pinpointing for social skills could target conversations, groupwork, classroom participation, and emotional regulation. Social skills can be difficult for clients to engage in and providers to identify, but these five steps help make it easier. 



Peacock, K. MS, BCBA. Pinpointing Social Skills. Central Reach. Retrieved from  https://institute.centralreach.com/learn/course/pinpointing-social-skills/pinpointing-social-skills-webinar/pinpointing-social-skills