Apples and Oranges.

blog pic apples and oranges

I attend a large church and we are fortunate to have a couple of classes for our kids with special needs to join while their parents go to services.  I volunteer in one of these classes, and I have come to know and love the children in my room.  Several of these friends are former students of mine as well, so it is a treat to see them changing and growing into young adults!  I am in the younger classroom, and we join a larger group of K-2nd graders for a whole group dance party/bible lesson for part of our morning.

Some of my friends can be a little loud and wiggly, and at first, it stressed me out a bit to try to make sure they were not distracting the other kids during our big group time.  But as I looked around, the other students were equally (if not more) loud and wiggly!  They are being kids, in all their silly glory that comes along with not being concerned about what others think of you.  I learned to relax and enjoy the fun of watching these littles worship with wild abandon and joy!

A few weeks ago, I noticed two little girls watching one of my students sing and dance. They stared at her and then looked at me.  I walked over and asked if they wanted to come meet my friend. They were shy but said yes, and walked over.  The girls chatted for a bit and soon were jumping and singing right next to her, three peas in a pod.  The world will tell us that we are different and separate, not enough and too much, apples and oranges.   But don’t listen to the world, fruit salad is delicious!

IMO (maybe that’s the problem)

IMO blog post picPlease note: this is not a political opinion post, but a discussion on applying a social learning concept in the real world.

One of the Social Thinking concepts that really resonates with me is how people, time and place change what we should say and do.  In considering who we are with, where we are and the timing of an event, we consider how our words and actions impact others and how others will think of us.  For example, you are with new co-workers (people) on the first day of work (timing) and you are in a meeting (place) with your new boss, and you tell your raunchiest joke. Your co-workers and boss are probably not going to have good thoughts about you! If you are with your college besties (people) in your favorite pub (place) watching your weekly Saturday football game (timing), you could tell that same joke and your friends might think you are the most hilarious person ever!  I try to teach my students to “read the room” before they speak, and think through the outcomes of these social choices as part of social language interventions.  Our kids typically live in the moment and don’t always think through the consequences of their words and actions first.  This often gets them into trouble with their parents, teachers and peers!

It is not only my students that struggle with the concepts of the right time, person and place. I have noticed this quite frequently in the news as well. Our political world has spun dangerously into a frenzied state of perpetual outrage and fury.  It isn’t new, but it is has become pervasive with 24/7 coverage on social media.  I have unfollowed (is that a word?) several friends on different media platforms because it was just too much rhetoric and constant posts on being offended/offensive. The words “in my opinion” seem to be used as a free pass to say whatever you are feeling, regardless of how it might make other people think and feel.   As an adult, I am still learning the fine art of considering and appreciating differing points of view without agreeing with them (you can check out my previous blog about the concept of agreeing to disagree here ).

This concept came into focus for me when I was watching coverage of Bethune Cookman’s college graduation ceremony a few weeks ago.  The embattled Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, was invited to be the speaker. In the storm of controversy leading up to the speech, the school’s President shared with the community, “I am of the belief that it does not benefit our students to suppress voices that we disagree with, or to limit students to only those perspectives that are broadly sanctioned by a specific community.” During the ceremony, several students chose to stand with their backs to Ms. DeVos in protest during her speech, and jeering from the crowd was heard. Mr. Edison Jackson, the school’s president, interrupted to tell the students that if this behavior continued, their degrees would be mailed to them.  While I understand the reasoning behind the protest and love the passion of students who are willing to stand up for their beliefs, it wasn’t the right place or the right time.  It took away from the focus of all who had worked hard to earn their diplomas and celebrate with their families that day. The message gets lost when you don’t consider the timing, place and people around you.   To be able to consider both sides of a conversation is a mark of maturity and social competency, especially when you don’t agree!

Protests and healthy discourse are essential pieces to our Democracy, but at what point does it become about more outrageous behavior and stunts to gain attention and less about the actual cause and social change that we care about?  I am much more likely to listen and engage in a thoughtful conversation about differing points of view with someone who is able to share their concerns and passions respectfully, than if someone is just shouting me down and calling me names because I don’t agree with them.  We are not a perfect country and not a perfect people, but if we are going to weather the storms of the times, we must learn to “read the room” and  consider how our words and actions impact others.

As I teach my students (and remind myself), you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.  Do you work on these skills with your students?  Share here….

 

A Season for Everything..

3x3 blog pic season for everything.png

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.

No more teachers, no more books….

3x3 blog pic social homework.png

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.

I feel appreciated!

appreciated blog

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:

Green Talk vs. Red Talk

Communication Blessings has this really cool emotions product that works on reading non-verbal clues, a tricky concept for my students:

Emotions: Descriptions & Body Language Clues

Jennifer Moses has a ton of great social language products, especially for older kids, like this fabulous Taking Perspective lesson pack:

Taking Perspective: A social-cognition activity to work on

Last, but not least, I love Peachie Speechie’s I Can Have Conversations Workbook

I Can Have Conversations: No Prep Social Language Workbook

The Social Dogtective.

3x3 blog pic social dogtective

It’s been a bit chaotic around school this week with state testing, end of course testing and general spring fever!  It’s a bit harder to keep our friends engaged this time of year, but I came up with a fun activity that just might do the trick!   I searched google images (or you can use Pixabay or magazine images) for funny pictures of dogs.   Print, laminate and cut them out.   Voila’, you have a great social language activity to work on the concepts of what the dog might be thinking or saying, what they might be feeling, predicting what could happen next and determining what clues that the students saw in the picture to make their very smart guesses.

3x3 blog pic dog pic

I also have some thought bubble and word bubble sticky notes to extend the activity! You can write up different thoughts or words (you can draw pictures for your younger students) and then ask the kids to match the thought and talking bubbles with the pups in the pictures.  Working on social language concepts in different ways helps to build flexible brains!  If puppies aren’t your thing, use pictures of silly cats, guinea pigs, tropical fish or even llamas.

Of course, I always have that one friend who throws a wrench into the session by pointing out that, duh, dogs can’t talk.  This is usually said in a loud voice and in front of all the other kids in the group.  After I crawl out from under the metaphorical bus they just threw me under, I turn it into a teachable moment to talk about using our imagination, contrasting fantasy/reality, and having fun with social language!   And if they are still mumbling under their breath after this explanation?  You can always have an impromptu therapy lesson about the Unthinkables ©, Grumpy Grumpaniny or Rock Brain both spring to mind!!

What fun and easy ways to you keep your social language students engaged these last weeks of school?

 

Celebrating the week with you!

birthday blog

Well it has been a crazy month so far and this week is no different with a milestone birthday for me (one of those “F” word decades).  It’s my party and I could cry if I want to, but nope, this girl is going to celebrate instead!  All of my SmartmouthSLP social language products in my TPT store are 10% off until 4/26, so go grab some fun and effective products to get you through the rest of the month and cheers to another year!

*click on the hyperlink or the picture to head to my store.