The Invisible Rules of School

invisible rules of school blog

I had heard about a fascinating social language teaching concept, The Curriculum of Hidden Rules, several months ago.  The authors proposed that in addition to teaching school/work rules, we also need to address the unspoken curriculum that helps us succeed socially.  For my students with ASD, ADHD or other social language and cognitive impairments, these unspoken or “invisible” rules are not learned incidentally and are often the reasons that they get into trouble!

One teacher asked me why my students didn’t seem to “get it” when all the other kids did.  I explained that neurotypical* students (* for this discussion, meaning kids who aren’t on the autism spectrum or diagnosed with social language or cognitive impairments) naturally pick up on the subtle social cues that my students often miss.  The simple answer is that my students are not incidental learners in their environments. We have to break down the skill and rules, answer questions (lots of questions!) and help our kids practice these non-intuitive social skills to help them succeed far beyond the walls of our school.

Dr. Christine Reeve, author of the fantastic Autism Classroom Resources, posted a series of blogs on teaching this curriculum with students and young adults. Her blog about the danger of the hidden curriculum in bathrooms was great and very timely!  I have an elementary student with Down Syndrome that I work with, and he got into a LOT of trouble this year by not recognizing the hidden curriculum of the bathroom.  He wasn’t being silly or purposefully trying to upset others, he just didn’t recognize the rules the other boys did in the bathroom.  It was a frustrating and upsetting experience for his family and a huge learning curve for the school (teachers all the way to the administration).

This coming school year, as part of my job in developing social language support in our county with SLPs, I want to start to integrate some of these lessons of the Curriculum of Hidden Rules (hello PBIS!).   I created a TPT product to use as a companion packet with this concept HERE  (the books for The Hidden Curriculum are not included).

Social City Sleuths: Understanding the Invisible Rules at School  includes templates for talking about the known and invisible rules in nine areas of school, a student planner for working on these rules, practice scenarios, interactive bulletin board sets for an entire school year, and extension ideas to push out these concepts school wide!  It’s made to work with students from late elementary through middle school (or those working at this cognitive level) and is perfect for social skills groups, counseling groups or PBIS lessons.

social city sleuths.jpg

Have you heard about the Hidden Curriculum? How are you working on the Curriculum of Hidden Rules in your school or therapy setting?  Share here!

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