It was just a little lie…

lie blog

Some of my students have a problem, they don’t always tell the truth.  They not only fib, tell whoppers and embellish, sometimes they straight up lie to my face.   Telling the truth vs. telling a lie is a pretty black and white concept; it is a rule we are taught from the time we started talking.  However, lying can fall into the gray area of social rules and it’s a difficult thing to explain to kids with social language impairments!

For my younger elementary students, I really like  “Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Monkey on His Back” and Julia Cook’s book, “Lying Up a Storm” to start a discussion.  It’s often so much easier to talk about difficult subjects in the frame of what someone else did, rather than addressing it directly with the student’s behaviors.


howard b wigglebottom lying


Julia Cook Lying up a storm

As a general rule, people should not lie.   There are times however, when what is often called a “white lie” might be necessary to protect someone’s feelings.   This discussion requires an understanding of perspective taking and being able to put yourself “in someone else’s shoes”.  My older students will often try to excuse a rude or blunt comment with “I’m just being honest” or “But it’s the truth!”,  regardless of how what they said made someone feel or think.  To steal a phrase from them, not cool, not cool at all.  As you can see, talking with our students about lying can be a slippery slope!

I really like these TPT activities to start a discussion on the concepts of thinking about others and how not being honest impacts them (and what they think about us when we lie):

Types of Lies Town (a teachable game for late elementary students)

Half Truths Social Skills Conversation Starter (freebie)

Truth Monitor (classroom poster and teaching tool)

What other resources do you use to work on honesty and lying?   Share here!


Get to the point!

to the point

I was chatting with a colleague the other day about one of our favorite students.  She is a fifth grader with high functioning ASD and she has come a long way in so many of her social communication skills!  One area she continues to struggle in is giving too much information in conversation.  She understood the steps to check in visually with the listener (non-verbals) and what she should do , but she continued to give way too much information day to day.   I have a freebie on TPT to help with these beginning steps of determining how much information is too much or too little that she used very successfully (you can download it HERE).  She could often recognize too much detail when other people did it, but like many of our students, she needed more support with her own self-monitoring.

Her SLP and I brainstormed a couple of ideas to try,  including giving her a time constraint to share relevant information/responses.  15 seconds doesn’t sound very long, but it sure feels long if someone is rambling on and on without reaching a point.  A visual timer was introduced, but the student got flustered trying to organize her thoughts to fit the time limit (hello executive function!).  So her very smart SLP, Jaime, had her use a graphic organizer to put down her thoughts prior to the timed activity.

This was a great way to help her visually see the important pieces of information that she needed to include or the unimportant details that might bog her down (and she was more successful)!  This graphic organizer idea goes along nicely with how schools often teach writing to our kids, a main idea, 3 supporting details and a concluding sentence, and is a framework to help our students learn to summarize and condense their thoughts. You could even give your students five tickets representing each part of the re-tell as visual support. Obviously, this is not something that will happen in natural conversation, however, we often have to break down the skill and practice from model towards independence.  This is tricky for lots of our students on the spectrum, with ADD or with executive function weaknesses, so lots of practice in the therapy room AND in real time is essential (get mom and dad on board at home and the classroom teachers/peers using these strategies too for generalization).

Another idea I had was to give her a visual representation of information.  Use a bag (like one from a party store) and put in objects to represent information on a topic. For example, a movie ticket, popcorn, an empty drink cup, a picture of the movie, all in the bag.  Ask the student to decide if there is enough information/detail in the bag to understand what the topic is.  Then explain that the bag is really our brain.  You can put in one object (not enough) or lots of extraneous objects (representing off topic or unimportant details) to visually represent conversational responses.

You could also have your other students (artic monitoring anyone?) record short videos giving examples of conversational responses and have your student identify if it’s too much, not enough or just the right amount of information. If the example has too much information, see if the student can identify which comments were extraneous or redundant to make it a little harder.   To further extend this idea, your students working on this skill might enjoy making their own cartoons and they can record the responses using Toontastic, a free app on itunes.   This is great for feedback when discussing if they gave the right amount of information to a new listener.

How do you help your students give responses with just the right amount of information? Share here!


I’m so NOT a groupie.

so not a groupie blog

In working with students on the autism spectrum, one issue that seems to continue to pop up is working in groups successfully.  Collaborative learning is woven throughout the core from my itty bitties to high school.   I really like the tower of building blocks poster, from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Incredible Flexible You ,  that illustrates all the steps required to be part of a group.

building blocks of social language

There are 14 skills that are necessary to do this effectively. Fourteen including joint attention, joint intention, imitation, attachment and emotional engagement, individual self regulation, language and cognition, central coherence, theory of mind, executive function, perspective taking (sharing space with others), self regulation in a group, cooperation and negotiation, collaborative play/sharing an imagination, and then, learning in a group.  It would be a great visual to share with parents and teachers to show the complexity of what we are asking them to do.  While it is innate in a neurotypical child, these skills often need more discreet teaching, breaking down the steps and lots of practice to help them figure out how to do all the things necessary to be part of a group successfully.

By the time the students are in middle school and beyond, it becomes more evident when there are social weaknesses that impair participation and cooperation in group work. Also, our kids who don’t have these group prerequisites can often appear to be non-cooperative and difficult behaviorally (refusal, interrupting, not being able to accept a differing opinion, no social filter) rather than their class recognizing that these “behaviors” are often part of their social language impairment.  This does not endear them to their peers or teachers. They are often left to fend for themselves as a result, and this may inadvertently reinforce these behaviors to escape the group work for our kids.  It’s a miserable cycle.

I have seen some great strategies that teachers, OTs and SLPs have used to encourage moving towards successful group work.  They include letting the student choose a part of the group work to complete (on their own or with a preferred peer), recording a piece of their research or presentation on an iphone to reduce anxiety with presentation to a class, having the group present to the teacher outside of the class setting (less people, less distraction), or working in a group via technology such as group me (a group text message app that allows a back and forth group discussion), edmodo or using a google doc.  Build up the time they participate slowly and reinforce the heck out of them!!  For my older students, introducing the concept of the “social fake/boring moments” as illustrated in this fantastic poster by Social Thinking (RT) is important. This poster for working in a group is a great resource too.  We need to acknowledge sometimes we need to work, think and talk about things we really don’t care about because it’s the expected behavior in a class discussion or project (and in life).  Here is a video link to a good example of a conversational social fake (and a bad example too)  as well as a great lesson plan from Cindy Meester on talking about the social fake HERE using the curriculum from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking (RT) program. I also really like this TPT game, Phoney Baloney, from Just Speechie SLP to work on this skill too.

Working on the prerequisite pieces, such as self regulation, having a plan of what to do/say when you disagree, sticking to the topic, and the art of negotiation are all life long skills that will build success in group work, far beyond the school years. These are critical skills for success in the workplace and in relationships as well.  Remember, the skills aren’t going to be acquired in a few speech sessions, if that were true they would have picked them incidentally a long time ago from their peers! It’s not just the SLP that needs to work on these skills either, the best outcome results from a team approach (student, family, teachers, peers, OT, counselor, etc..) and a lot of structured opportunity.  I like to think about social language development as more of a crock pot than a microwave.

What strategies have you found work well in group work in the classroom for your students?







SLP Spring Fever!

spring ebook

Well, I didn’t think it would EVER get here, but I am finally ready to start spring break! Mine looks a little different this year as we are doing college visits instead of a beach trip with my high school junior (and sneaking in some fun along the way).  One of the things on my to do list is looking through this great e-book of Spring speech products to be prepared for April therapy!  You can download this too HERE from TPT!  Happy Spring, whatever the week ahead looks like for you!