This semester has flown by! Our Baldwin SCORES Bobcats have been busy working on developing their “social smarts” both in their classrooms and in social thinking groups. Check out just a few of the topics we’ve worked on this semester…
1st/2nd graders (including EA & BD) have worked hard at learning that what people are looking at is a good clue to what they are thinking about. This led into more work on Whole Body Listening (especially “listening with your eyes”). They continued to work on using their eyes to help them match the group. These super social thinkers also worked on improving their abilities to transition from preferred activities to less preferred activities. That can be a tough one for all of us! Finally, they have begun working on initiating social interactions with peers and inviting peers to play.
1st/2nd graders (including LS, CM, BO, KL, JPJ): These amazing social detectives have been studying all about how to improve their social detective skills! Did you know you have to use lots of tools to be a great social detective? You have to use your eyes, ears, & brain to put lots of clues together to make good guesses about what other people are feeling and thinking and what will happen next!
They’ve continued to develop their Whole Body Listening skills and have been practicing identifying expected vs unexpected behavior. It’s important to understand that behavior is neither “good” nor “bad”, instead it’s expected or unexpected based on the social context. Even something like hitting can serve an important purpose and be expected in certain circumstances (like getting away from someone who is trying to hurt you!). In the SCORES program, we spend a lot of time examining behaviors and determining whether they are expected or unexpected based on the situation and help the kids practice reading the reactions of others to determine whether they are having calm thoughts about them or uncomfortable thoughts based on their behavior.
These amazing detectives have also been practicing social problem solving as well as building their reciprocal conversation skills.
3rd graders: What a great group of 3rd grade Superflex thinkers we have. They’ve spent time this semester working on identifying expected/unexpected and the associated social cost or benefit. We’ve been developing our Superflexible thinking skills and how to defeat those pesky Unthinkables like Rockbrain, Braineater, and Glassman. The kids have even created their own Unthinkables based on their personal challenges. They’ve taught us all how to defeat Angry Anchor (who causes you to say yucky words), First Frooke (who makes you want to be first all the time), Mean Meowing Mammot (who makes you hiss or yell or say mean words to friends), and Hurting Harry (who makes you hurt other people when the problem is small). These creative kids have made their own comic books about ways to defeat their original Unthinkables as well as making their own illustrated Social Town to practice their new skills. Finally, we’ve recently begun practicing our emotional regulation skills (5 deep balloon breaths, positive self-talk, and visualizing our “calm place”) using a really cool tool called MindFlex. Ask you 3rd grader about it and find out what place helps them feel focused and calm.
5th graders: This group keeps Mrs. Hively on her toes! Our group has grown (we now have 8 boys in the group!) and they are doing an amazing job of applying nuanced social skills in a variety of learning challenges. We’ve worked on cooperative problem solving (ask your kiddo about traveling over the acid surface of Mars!) and flexing to negotiate and include a variety of opinions in the final solution. We’ve also spent a lot of time fine tuning those conversation skills. Often, when students are initially learning conversation skills we teach them to “wait for the pause” before jumping in to prevent those runaway train moments. But for our students who are ready to work on more subtle skills, it’s important to teach them that there really isn’t a “pause” in regular conversations. Notice your next conversation. How do you know when you can jump in? It requires visual attention to the nonverbals of others as well as anticipating where they are going in the conversation in order to anticipate when their turn is about to end. This takes loads of perspective taking! It’s a complicated maneuver that we take for granted in our daily interactions and is a huge challenge for our kids with ASD. The visual (and verbal) cue we use is the image of two pieces of train track clicking together smoothly. As one communication partner’s turn is coming to a close, the next communication partner adds their comment or question. If they add it too slowly their is an awkward pause. If they add it too quickly, then they are interrupting (derailing the train) and that annoys their partner.
This takes LOTS of practice. Help cue your child at home by talking about making “smooth connections”. Observe conversations between others and whether they are making those smooth connections.
Mrs. Evans and I are super proud of all our hard working Social Thinkers. We look forward to our spring semester and the adventures that await. We hope you all have a relaxing, joyous holiday break and enjoy your time with your sweet kiddos!