Monday, May 30, 2011

Social Skills: Conversation

In Michelle Winner's books, Think Social, A Social Thinking Curriculum and Thinking of You, Thinking of Me, she has some nice suggestions for helping develop conversational skills. 

I have used this section of her curriculum once with my teenage boys group.  My suggestion for those of you who have not covered this unit yet would be to read over the information in both of the books and try to digest it.  Then I would implement the curriculum as outlined in the Think Social book.  After this is done, the conversations unit will need to be continually practiced in each session in the context of group discussions, games, etc.

One of Ms. Winner's suggestions is to use strips of paper stating the various parts of conversation needing practice: Questioning, Commenting, etc.  She also suggested slips that denote conversation stoppers such as interrupting.  These slips take the place of the sticks or marbles in the "thoughts" section; the conversation strips are earned to reward the student for using that particular form (or to train them to use specific conversational forms) and the stoppers are handed out to alert them of their bloopers.  Since I love visuals with pictures I made the following cards printed and laminated to indicate these conversation bloopers.  I wanted them to be humorous so that getting them would be a light moment to say "oops" instead of an embarrassing reprimand.

Silence:  Failing to say anything or saying too little as in, "yeah", are conversation stoppers.
WTC:  Not staying on topic with the thread of conversation.
TMI:  Talking too much, too long, or all the time.  Giving too many details until everyone's eyes glaze over.
Rude Interruptions:  The interruptions can be verbally butting in or I also dispense this card when someone is not paying attention to the speaker but is fidgeting or engaging in horseplay. 

Conversation Stoppers PDF

Here is something I made on Boardmaker years ago to address staying on topic.  It consists of a series of bubbles of 2 colors; one color for each speaker.  The first bubble starts the conversation with a comment or question.  The next bubble must bear some relationship to the first bubble in the form of a comment or question.  Each subsequent bubble must follow a thread of the bubble preceding it.  I tell the child that anything they say in their bubble must pick up on at least one word or idea from the comment/bubble before it.  It can be interesting to see where a topic leads.

Conversation Bubble Example 1
Conversation Bubble Example 2
Conversation Bubble Thread Template

Friday, May 27, 2011

Social Skills: Social Stories

In working with our social groups, we found that some of the children need more help to understand the concepts.  Therefore, I have created a few Social Stories that serve to summarize some of our lessons and present visual aids along with the story.  (If you want to print these, open the link, right click on picture, click "save as" to a file on your computer, then you can print them.)

FRIENDS:  Addresses what friends should be.  Some of our clients may not ever have had a good friend.
FRIENDS Social Story on TPT

Here is a fun little video on YouTube about Friends:
Notebook Babies:  What is a Friend?
Notebook Babies:  Sharing

THOUGHTS:  Addresses the concept of "Good Thoughts vs. Uncomfortable Thoughts" and why you want people to have good thoughts about you.  It also reinforces the idea of "expected vs. unexpected behaviors".
 THOUGHTS Social Story on TPT 

EYE CONTACT:  Helps the child understand why we need to look at others.  It also explains that eye contact is not necessarily looking into someone's eyes and should not be "staring" at others.

Go to my TPT Store to purchase this three page story.

I will add more social stories that complement the Social Thinking curriculum as I develop them.

Here is a site called Teacher Tube.  Type in a search for "social story" to see what else they have available.

Joining in Play with Others
Personal Space

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Social Skills: Group 3

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.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Does your child have difficulty...

Making friends?                                             Playing games?          
                        Taking turns?                                

Understanding personal space: stands too close to others, touches others constantly, or stands too far away from the group?

Reading body-language, understanding intonation, recognizing humor, jokes, and figurative language?

Does your child...

                                               Misunderstand the words or intentions of others?

Get picked on or at least think that they are being picked on?

                       Demand his/her own way, refuse to share, obsess over a toy or topic?

  Fail to make eye contact with others and miss subtle
    cues in conversation?

Appreciate that others may enjoy different things or may have a different
    understanding or perspective of certain things. 

                                Send negative signals with his/her own nonverbal cues?

If so, then your child might benefit from these groups

WHAT: Some children have difficulty navigating the social world. They may be unable to establish and maintain peer relationships, have problems understanding social rules, be left out of activities, or feel uncomfortable in groups. It can be heartbreaking to see your child suffer social isolation. At The Speech House we offer Social Skills groups addressing these types of problems. Social skills are a form of communication disorder. As Speech Language Pathologists, we are trained to address these issues. Our classes address the ability to think socially and learn the hidden rules.

These social skills classes are directed toward helping children who have difficulty understanding and following social rules, engaging in conversations with other children, making and keeping friends, and understanding “perspective-taking” or theory of mind.  We do not simply practice social routines and scripts.  We take the children through a curriculum that addresses some of the basic problems causing their social skills difficulties.  We explain what "eye contact" really is and why it is important to others and to them.  We teach the hidden "rules" of socialization.  We teach them how to become a "social detective" and perceive what is appropriate in various social situations. 

We have seen some significant and positive changes in our current social skills groups as a direct result of this curriculum.  We are very excited to have found a tool that is so helpful to these children.

WHO: Children ages 6-15 years. 3-6 children per group (grouped by age/developmental levels). Children who have these types of problems may (or may not) be diagnosed with any of the following disorders:
  • ADHD
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Semantic Pragmatic Disability
  • High Functioning Autism
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Language Disorders
These classes are best for children with average to above average cognitive abilities. Children with mild mental retardation or low cognitive skills may be unable to grasp the ideas being presented.

WHERE: Groups will meet at our office.
                                                                      The Speech House
                                                                      2117 S. Fleishel Ave.
                                                                      Tyler, TX 75701

WHEN: One hour per week - Times to be set based on needs of groups and available time slots.

COST: Contact us for further information.

   Contact us at  903-581-5421 to get more info or register.