Social Graces

grace

This week is holiday break for Thanksgiving and boy, am I thankful!!  The year has been a roller coaster of meetings, trainings and learning to be a problem solving ninja.  I was having lunch with my fellow speechies this week during a brief lull in my schedule.  As we were sharing dessert, Dove dark chocolate peppermint squares (I know it’s not Christmas yet; don’t judge, they are delicious), a topic came up that got me thinking.

We were sharing our week, and I mentioned a meeting that I attended with the most lovely parents.  Kind, engaged and asking great questions, they were a family that was an absolute joy.  It was a breath of fresh air!!  It woke me up to the fact that these interactions have become far and few between. Social graces are apparently becoming a rare commodity, not just for our kids, but in the adults as well!  An aggressive mentality was evident in several meetings I have attended this year, with an adult screaming at the teachers and therapists.  It is always shocking to me, so when it started happening multiple times, I thought long and hard about why it was occurring.  And yes, I realize I was doing a mental FBA (functional behavioral analysis), it’s a job hazard.

When did shouting, swearing and threatening people become an accepted way to  advocate for a child?  I have been on the parental side of the IEP table too and it is stressful.  It is our job as a mom/dad/grandparent to try and do what is best for our children.  However, I tried to communicate positively how much I appreciated the effort by the people helping my child and asked questions to clarify the IEP when it wasn’t clear.  I gave my input as well, especially when I didn’t agree with something.   I was in turn. treated with respect and kindness throughout the process over the years, and it benefited my son.

It is not just a parental issue either.  I have seen poor social skills in teachers, therapists and school staff as evidenced by them checking their phones and texting, having loud side conversations unrelated to the meeting or demonstrating “unwelcoming” body language in meetings.  I am thinking of subtly hanging a Whole Body Listening Larry poster on the wall.  Seriously, how can we expect to teach our kids successful social skills when the adults in their lives aren’t modeling or using them as well?

Human beings are involved in this process, so we aren’t going to be perfect.  We will make mistakes and misunderstand things.  We should take ownership when we mess up, apologize sincerely and try to do better moving forward. We should demonstrate common sense and graciousness (thank you for your wisdom and handbags, Kate Spade!). When there is a problem, we work together to solve it.  We, as a team, are all working for the greater good of the child, no matter which seat you occupy at the IEP table.

Do you see this trend as well?  How do you diffuse or handle these moments?

 

 

 

You WILL Be My Friend….or else

Peter Brown's book on friendship

Peter Brown’s book on friendship

 

The Scholastic Book Fair rolled into my school this week for the last hurrah before summer.   I strolled through the aisles looking for this and that when I found the book, “You Will Be My Friend” by Peter Brown.   I read the title first as “Will You Be My Friend?” but when I looked again, sure enough the title was a command not a request!   This book illustrates the difficulties of figuring out how to make friends, whether you are a beast or a boy.  For a lot of my students with social language weakness, friendship is tricky!

One of my favorite students started a conversation with a new classmate this year.  She recounted that she wanted to be friends with the new girl, so she told her, ” I am just going to warn you, you don’t want to make me mad.”  She felt that she was offering good insight on how to be her friend, just don’t make me mad.  She didn’t consider that starting off a friendship with a perceived threat was not a great first impression.  Yikes.

Lucy, the main character of our story, heads out on a mission one morning to find a new friend in the forest.   She bumbles her way into frog ponds, a giraffe’s breakfast and invades the personal space of a local ostrich.     Lucy’s intentions are good, but she struggles on her quest to find a friend.     The illustrations are beautiful and offer great clues on reading body language, emotion and what other’s might be thinking in the story.   It is filled with fantastic opportunities to talk about social language concepts such as whole body listening, personal space, talking too much and being yourself around others!

I have created a three page activity to go along with the story (factual questions and social thinking questions) here

What books have you used for friendship?

 

 

 

Feelings, nothing more than feelings.

emotions

 

As we edge closer to Spring Break around here, there are lots of feeling words flying about.  Kids are excited, distracted, hyper and giddy at the thought of the week ahead. Teachers are feeling the same things, but with a thick layer of exhaustion overlaying them all!!  I often get frustrated (another feeling word!) when working with the concept of emotions in the classroom.  For some reason, we seem to get stuck on happy, sad, mad and silly.  That’s it???  I know those are the primary feelings that come to mind with little people, but when working with students who have social communication weakness, subtlety is not our friend.  For us to have teachable moments, we have to talk about many more than just those four.

A SLP I work with forwarded me this amazing emotion graphic from Do2Learn .  It shows a HUGE variety of emotions that are placed on a color wheel. Each emotion word is color coded to intensity levels, then when you click on the word, it gives you a picture of someone showing this emotion and a description of it!! For example, aggravated is pink where as furious is dark purple, genius!  My only wish is that you could attach video clips not just static pictures of the emotion, but this is a fantastic starting point.   Along with this emotion chart, we need to include the clues to figure out people’s more subtle feelings such as looking at the person’s mouth (frown, tight-lipped, smiling?), the eyes and eyebrows (angry eyes anyone?), and body language (arms crossed, hands fisted, physical proximity to someone).  Take the language out of videos or commercials and have your students practice figuring out how someone feels once they master static pictures.  Emotions change over time, people and places, so this is an ongoing life lesson.

Here is a free checklist for working with your students on determining emotions (pair it with the emotion wheel!).