Who doesn’t love cake, ice cream and a good birthday party? Well, for our kids with social language weakness and/or social anxiety, it isn’t always a good time. One of my own children was very active and impulsive when he was little, and birthday parties were a bit of a nightmare. I had to prep him prior to the party to review what kind of behaviors were expected and which ones were unexpected in the environment (for example, an inside the home party vs. outside park party). It was easy for him to go into sensory overload, and I learned quickly to have a plan so he could calm down and reorganize himself if needed. These prep steps were crucial to limit bodily harm and collateral property damage, and they kept the party a positive experience for my son (and the other kids).
I created this Party Time Pragmatics packet to practice birthday party scenarios with my speech students who have social language impairments. This can include kids with ASD, ADHD, EBD, and social anxiety. I use it to introduce the idea of being an ‘Ask-Again Friend’ (yay!) versus an ‘Uninvitable’ (not so yay!). Birthday parties have many of hidden rules and the rules change based on lots of variables such as where the party is, who is attending, how long you have known the birthday child and your relationship with them. For example, how you act with your cousins that you see all the time is very different from how you act with a new classmate. It is always an eye opener to talk about what the kids think the important things to know are about attending a party, and then guide them to fill in the missing (or misinformed) pieces of information. I have six social scenario cards of Uninvitable behaviors and a Present Time Rewind to go over what those friends could have said or done differently to be more of an Ask Again Friend. I also made 12 birthday gift scenes to contrast Ask-Again Friends and Uninvitables.
One of the challenging activities included is to act out different feelings and emotions related to birthday parties. They can only use facial expressions and body language, but NO WORDS. Oh, this is hard!! Sometimes it is difficult for kids to figure out how to match non-verbals with verbals, and doing this is trickier than it would seem at first! Extend the activity by having them come up with some party scenarios of their own or YOU act out the scenarios, but match the wrong expression or body language and see if the kids can catch you (and hopefully correct you)! The last two activities are multiple meaning words (with a birthday theme, of course) and a “guess what’s inside the present” activity to work on visualization and making inferences. To make it a little more fun, I bought tiny birthday cartons and boxes at the dollar store and put actual objects inside so the kids can check their guesses. You can also use these containers and have the kids come up with other clues/present combinations or they can give each other the clues and make a guess which box or carton it is in, to extend the activity.
I hope this packet and the ideas will help your students become Ask Again Friends!