I have always loved this passage in the Bible about seasons of change (Ecclesiastes 3). These past few months have brought that into sharp focus for me, both the good and the bad. My school recently lost our principal, a smart and amazing woman, leaving our community heartbroken. My youngest son is graduating from high school this month. I sold my home and am starting a new job next school year. I really don’t like change at all, but it is part of life.
Many of my students are not fans of change either, but time will still bring these shifts, ready or not. I am reminded in my own season of life of all the lessons I have tried to share with my students: mindfulness, being flexible, thinking about other people, recognizing all of our feelings instead of pushing those uncomfortable ones away. The best I can do for them, and for myself, is to try and remain present and calm. Embracing the feelings that change brings is not only healthy, but crucial in helping us to move forward instead of getting stuck. Remind yourself to enjoy being in the moment, not wishing time away or worrying about what tomorrow might bring. No one is promised tomorrow. Tell the people in your life that you love them, be brave and kind, and know the only thing consistent in life is change.
Summer is almost here and I have been sitting in IEP meetings for the last 137 hours (at least it feels that way). Summer homework packets are always stressful for the SLP to create as we tend towards the tiniest streak of perfectionism as a profession. We are bone tired in the homestretch of school and I have always dreaded putting these packets together, hoping that they will at least be glanced at before we come back in August. But with age comes wisdom (and memory loss, but that is a post for another day), and I no longer feel compelled to make these homework packs.
In the case of social language, there is very little in a worksheet that will help my friends truly carryover the social skills that we address during the year. So what do I tell the families? First, I try to help them let go of the need to “drill and kill” over the summer break. As a parent, I felt the pressure to make sure I was doing something to keep my boys’ brains engaged when they were out of school, so they wouldn’t come back to class acting like they had never lived indoors or held a book. This parental guilt is tricky for us all. When I worked in an outpatient clinic at a children’s hospital, I remember a mom of a little guy with autism being torn over missing therapy to go to the beach for a week. I told her that language is everywhere and family time is just as crucial for her son as therapy. I could see the relief wash over her and she let the mommy guilt go. A few short weeks of summer is meant as a respite for us all.
What I do suggest is finding ways for my students to be socially engaged in a more natural setting. Organized sports are often tough for my kiddos, but a few kids running outside in the sprinklers or in the park playing Frisbee golf are great opportunities to work on turn taking, whole body listening and language! Growing a garden together or cooking as a family embeds tons of group work skills and language opportunities. Letting the kids plan a weekly outing requires lots of social and executive function practice, including time management, thinking about what other people like (or do not like), and being flexible thinkers.
Now I know that my social friends aren’t always keen on moving out of their routine and comfort zones, so leverage what they do like! For example, in order to earn screen time, a new Anime book or Minecraft© purchases, they pick one social activity to participate in per week, not necessarily joyfully but without wailing and gnashing their teeth. Look for social clubs in your area that allow for a more relaxed participation around group activities for older kids with social language impairments (we have an amazing one here called E’s Club). Suggest that your student get involved in causes that they care about such as volunteering at a local animal shelter. Real life experiences will always trump worksheets, particularly in developing social competencies!
Happy summer! Let go of the homework packet guilt SLPs and let me know your thoughts on supporting social language over the break.
It sounds like a cute Saturday morning cartoon character or a yummy pastry, but Popplet is actually an interactive graphic organizer app! It’s available on itunes but I am lucky enough to have it as part of my Office 365 suite on my school computer! This app is described on their website : “In the classroom and at home, students use Popplet for learning. Used as a mind-map, Popplet helps students think and learn visually. Students can capture facts, thoughts, and images and learn to create relationships between them.” My students, especially my students with social language impairments, ADD and/or executive function impairments, are definitely visual learners! I am too, so here is a link to a youtube video that shows how to build a Popplet organizer. Here is a link to a fabulous education blog that outlines multiple uses for Popplet in school with a great step by step tutorial. One of my SLPeeps (thanks Joy!) introduced me to this in a presentation recently and my mind jumped right to social language concepts (I know, it’s an obsession)!
How cool would this be to use for social mapping? You could add a picture of the problem scenario in the middle (or even have the students role play problems and take actual pictures of them to use with the app). Then, use the organizer to build out expected/unexpected pathways (you can color code them too) and tease out how their choices impact how others think and feel. If your students have tablets in your school system as ours do, you can push out the Popplet to them individually and they have an immediate visual social map to refer to.
What about our friends who have difficulty with group work? Building a Popplet together might be more enticing to my students who love technology and sneak in some collaborative learning skills at the same time in the therapy setting or in the classroom! I can see this being used to work on expanding social language concepts such as perspective taking using a graphic organizer, connecting the concepts of think/say/feel and even linking shades of emotions using Popplet. I want to try it out and have my kids look at a picture in the middle, then identify and connect the clues they see in order to make a smart guess! It would be fantastic to be able to print a screenshot and blow it up to poster size to refer to in your therapy room or classroom too.
I am excited to try out this new therapy tool and see how it goes. Have you used Popplet? Please share your thoughts here. If not, how would you use it for social language therapy?
It’s the last one of the school year, the TPT Teacher Appreciation Sale! Don’t forget to enter the code: Thankyou17 at checkout to save up to 28% on all social language products in my TPT store, SmartmouthSLP ! I also have a couple of AWESOME social language items on my wishlist to share with you (and please share your great finds in the comments section):
I love Speech Paths approach to social thinking materials, and this new Red Talk/Green Talk is no exception:
Communication Blessings has this really cool emotions product that works on reading non-verbal clues, a tricky concept for my students:
Jennifer Moses has a ton of great social language products, especially for older kids, like this fabulous Taking Perspective lesson pack:
Last, but not least, I love Peachie Speechie’s I Can Have Conversations Workbook
Working on perspective taking skills and point of view can be tricky for my students. It is not an easy social language concept to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think about how they might feel. This is a skill that is embedded in both the academic curriculum as well as in real life social interactions! With Spring in full swing here, I printed these fabulous flower templates from Tracee Orman’s template packet that I have, but you could freestyle your own flower templates too. My social thinking groups came up with different problem scenarios and wrote one in the middle of each template. Next, we decided who the people are that would be part of the scenario and write them on the back of the petals (see picture below). After that, we flipped the flower back to the front and on each petal, wrote what the person might be thinking or feeling based on their point of view in the scenario.
You can also work this social activity backwards and write the perspectives on the petals and have the students come up with a matching problem. You could also have them identify who might be thinking or feeling the thoughts written on each petal by making smart guesses (inferencing). When your flowers are finished, this would make a great Spring themed social thinking bulletin board too!
How do you work on perspective taking skills? Share here!