We have recently started up our third social skills group. Amy and I are working this group together so that she can learn the curriculum. We found ourselves EXHAUSTED at the end of the hour sessions with these boys. We constantly were reminding them to listen, to sit down, to stay on topic. We addressed Expected vs. Unexpected Behaviors in a group. We drilled and reviewed these behaviors. We looked at the Problem Scale, Game Playing, and Emotions and how our behaviors affect others. We pulled out every trick in the book to get these ideas across to them and to try to make an impact on their impulsive tendencies.
We were so frustrated with the needs of this group that we finally decided to jump ahead in the curriculum (which, by the way, is an absolutely okay thing to do). We discussed "good thoughts" vs. "weird thoughts" and how others have these about us. Expected Behavior results in "good, positive, safe, or neutral" thoughts. Unexpected Behaviors result in "weird" thoughts about us; others may not feel comfortable with us or may even feel unsafe around us. The kinds of thoughts others have about us affect whether or not they want to spend time with us.
Instead of popsicle sticks (as suggested in Michelle Winner's book), I went to Hobby Lobby and bought some floral marbles: red = weird thoughts / blue = good thoughts. I prefer the marbles to the sticks since they help teach the idea that negative thoughts can be buried by lots of good thoughts. So, a few "weird" thoughts do not sink us socially as long as we behave in ways to produce lots of positive feelings among our peers. I placed clear plastic cups in front of the boys and began dispensing plenty of blue/good thoughts. I explained what positive behaviors were resulting in the good thoughts. As the boys began to engage in their disruptive behaviors (grabbing at the the thought cups, talking off topic, or incessantly, laughing inappropriately...) I began to dispense red/weird thought marbles. The reaction was equal to dousing them with cold water. Shock, disbelief, trying to remove the marble, and finally calm behavior, increased attentiveness, and decreased unexpected behaviors.
I am constantly amazed at how such a simple technique can have such huge and immediate results. We are into week 8 of the group, week 3 of the use of marbles. I must say I have seen a dramatic improvement (not cured, though) in all of the childrens' behaviors.
We are also finding that this group needs to repeat lessons frequently and camp out on the early concepts. There is no point in forging ahead. They must grasp the basic concepts before they can move on. I am still having fun with this venture in spite of the stressors in my life recently. I will keep you posted as we move along.