I was working with one of our fantastic SLP-As last week in a small social group. One little guy just could not do what Michelle Garcia Winner refers to as “keep his brain in the group”. When asked what the group was talking about, he would make a tangential comment related to himself but not maintain the topic that his friends were talking about. Close but no cigar! From working with many friends like this little guy, I have found that visuals (instead of more words) really help.
I decided to make a visual to go along with the topic of conversation and the concept of “keeping my brain in the group”. It requires printing off THIS VISUAL (or making your own) and a big plastic bag or clear binder pocket. Yup, that’s it!!
Cut out the center of the page and attach the plastic bag to the back of this window (or slide the whole page into a clear binder pocket). You can laminate the visuals to make them last longer, and I would recommend printing the visual on heavy cardstock too, but regular letter size printer paper will work. Lastly, I put a piece of tape on the back so I can post this on whiteboards, file cabinets, doors, or whatever surface it will stick to where we are working!
For some friends, using pictures to represent the category of conversation (for example: a picture of blocks represents that we are talking about our favorite toys) is too literal. These kiddos are not flexible thinkers yet and may not generalize that we aren’t just talking about blocks, but the broader category of toys. I find that if they are readers and I write the word TOYS, this works better for them and they don’t get stuck on the item in the picture.
You can check in with the students who are working on the goal of maintaining a topic throughout the therapy session or class discussion. If they can’t remember or are off topic, point to the brain visual to give them a clue. I don’t need to say it or elaborate with language, that just muddies the water. Quick, clear, and we are back on track.
If the kids are able to tell you the topic, demonstrating that their brain is in the group, you can reward this accomplishment with cool brain erasers (from Oriental Trading Co.,about 5 bucks for 24), let them hold onto this cute little fidget brain for a minute, reward them with a Smartie candy or even a super budget friendly high-five.
What works well for you to help your students keep their brains in the group?