Will You Be My Social Valentine?


Valentine’s Day is upon us, and I am reminded again that it is a holiday that can be quite tricky for my students with social language impairments!  There is a whole lot of indirect language, hidden rules and emotional regulation in this holiday.  I found this adorable “monster crush” mailbox at my local dollar store (score!) and started thinking of all the ways I can use it this holiday, in my social therapy.  Here are few that you might want to try too!

ESL websites are a great resource of figurative language activities that also benefit my kids with social language impairments!  Here is one from EverythingESL on idioms related to the heart.  You can write the idioms on a paper heart and the students have to take them out of the mailbox and explain what the idiom literally means.  You can extend the activity by having them draw or write the meaning on the hearts and make a fun bulletin board from them.

For my upper grade students, I have this Cupid Quandary freebie in my TPT store.


 It has sixteen sticky social situations for your kids to talk through (you can use the mailbox with this as well for turn taking).  It includes some blank template cards to add your own scenarios too.


I use the Superflex® curriculum from Michelle Garcia Winner, and she has created a group of characters called Unthinkables.  These characters personify some of the challenges my students may have, such as not being a flexible thinker (Rock Brain) or poor emotional regulation (Glassman).  I have seen a few other SLPs (like Speech Room News ) create Unthinkable Valentines from these characters and have the students guess who they belong to.  You could also give the student the Unthinkable and ask them to write a card from the Unthinkable’s point of view (much harder)!  Extend the activity by talking about how the person receiving that Valentine might think or feel.

You could even get a little crazy and buy 2 mailboxes to sort valentine’s cards or hearts based on things you would say vs.things you should think or expected vs.unexpected comments related to Valentine’s Day. These are also social language concepts from Social Thinking®, so check it out if you haven’t already!

Want some more budget friendly Valentine’s Day ideas?  Visit my Instagram page @SmartmouthSLP each day this week for dollar store ideas to target social language concepts!

It’s not a box of chocolates, but I hope these ideas make your Valentine’s day social language therapy a little sweeter!

Growing Hearts

heart blog

It’s that time of year, hearts are everywhere! What a perfect opportunity to talk about how what we say affects people’s feelings (their heart), both positively and negatively. For some of my students, there is a disconnect between what they say and what they mean. We work on using our social filters (thinking before we say something), understanding that our thoughts, actions and words make other people have different thoughts and feelings and learning to regulate our emotions in relation to others.  This is difficult territory for many students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or my impulsive students with ADHD.   I love the book “How Full Is Your Bucket?” by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer to work on the concept of thinking of others.  You can peek at a youtube read aloud of the book HERE .

I was in the dollar store the other day and saw this packet of “Wack-a-pack” hearts. They come in a four pack for a buck! Here is the cool thing about them.  You open the pack and they are four flat balloons (small, mylar,  and heart shaped, of course).


Here are the directions!

When you smack them against a hard surface, it activates a small packet inside the balloon which then inflates it, just like magic!  But my lesson is on kindness, so instead of smacking the poor balloon, I use it as an illustration.  When when we hear sincere, kind and encouraging words, it makes us feel good.  We have what Michelle Garcia Winner describes as “having a good thought” about the person talking to us.  These good feelings can be described as “making my heart grow”.  Then we practice this with each other (it can get a little goofy, but that’s okay!).  I secretly push the packet inside the heart and voila’, it puffs right up, making our hearts grow right before our eyes!!


Be Mine…awwww

Then we talk about how mean words can make our hearts break.  We chat about what mean things someone might have said to us and how that made us feel.  We also talk about how careful we need to be when we talk to others!  Mean or careless words can make people have sad or mad thoughts and feelings about us when we don’t use our filters and think before we talk.  I then take a pin and pop the heart.  Ouch!  A heart shaped Venn Diagram would be a great visual reinforcer of these concepts too or if you are feeling brave, bubble gum to “grow” and POP your hearts!

What social skills materials have YOU found at the dollar store?  Share here!

**Want some other great dollar store ideas for speech?  Check out my friend Kristen’s            blog,  Talkin with Twang, Linky HERE .


Cupid Quandary

cupid quandary blog pic

I know it’s a bit early to talk about Valentine’s Day, but it is less than a month away!  For my older students with ASD (and even those without ASD), it can be a day fraught with confusing social messages.  Just take a look at the commercials on TV this time of year.  Everyone is coupled up happily, shopping in jewelry stores, eating chocolate (yet still being in great shape) and buying very expensive flowers that will not last until March.  Disney channel doesn’t do a great job either at setting realistic expectations of events and predictable behaviors in pre-teens regarding crushes, dating and like/love!

While these conversations should ideally be happening at home, we can and should address some of these concepts from a social perspective. Specifically, talking about how our thoughts and feelings affect other people and vice versa.  We need to include perspective of the range of emotions and relationships:  for example, like is not as strong a feeling as love and friendship is different than dating.  I really like using paint sample strips to visually demonstrate a spectrum of emotion like these .

We also need to talk about timing (oh, it really is everything, isn’t it?). When we are building relationships with people, be it friendship or more, we must consider if it is the right time, with the right person and/or the right place.   I had a high schooler ask a fellow student to prom…in the middle of math class…when he had never spoken to her before.   It did not go well.  This led into another conversation about a common social situation that can be so hard for ALL of us to understand; just because you like someone, doesn’t mean that they will feel the same way.  Ouch.

This is clearly not a one time topic to cover nor is it where we would start with a student.  We need to build relationships and trust before we step into this conversation as well as partner with the family!  I have a freebie in my TPT store, Cupid Quandary, to practice some of these early skills with your late elementary/middle school friends.   It’s not a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, but I do hope you will LOVE it!

What social language concepts do you address in regards to relationships and emotion?


“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva…”


The quote in the title is from one of my very favorite movies, The Princess Bride (** translation: “And love, true love, will follow you forever….”). Being a speech therapist, this scene always tickles me.  The theme of “love” is in the air as Valentine’s Day (also known as S.A.D.-singles awareness day) is approaching fast!  I was in a meeting for a middle school student this week and the topic of “how to get a girlfriend” came up. He was very concerned that he was supposed to have one right this minute…but had absolutely no idea how to do this.  A very caring group of teachers gently pointed out that he has plenty of time to build relationships, there is no need to hurry.  This student has social language issues and really struggles with how to make friends and navigate the social world. He is acting out in class to gain attention, annoying his classmates and getting in trouble often. He had no idea that this is not the way to win friends, especially a girl friend.

These skills of how to build relationships (friendships and more) begin early in life.  For our kids who struggle to read social cues and navigate the world with all of its hidden rules and indirect language, this is tricky.  Social scenario practice is talking about what you would do in a particular circumstance (with different people and places). It’s a safe environment to make mistakes and ask questions that might make them vulnerable in the world outside of the therapy room.  I talked about using  Social skills autopsy   a few weeks ago as a great way to go over what might have gone wrong and how we can change things next time. When they know they can take risks and talk through emotional topics, they relax and can begin to take in this new information.  I encourage my kids to make their best guess, but also let them know that everyone makes mistakes and sometimes social situations don’t work out how we want them to, even when we do everything right.

We want to teach our kids the social communication skills of being able to think about not only their own perceptions in regards to their own thoughts and feelings, but how they make other people think and feel as well (Think Social by Michelle Garcia Winner has several lessons that align with the concept of making friends/building relationships).  This is not a one shot lesson, it changes with age and setting, so we will have to adapt how we talk about relationships as they grow. I created this Cupid Question packet on TeachersPayTeachers with 20 social language questions for elementary or early middle schoolers, including lots of “what would you say or what would you do” questions. It also includes 20 blank cards for your students to come up with their own questions.  You can use these with any board game, conversation time or during a social language lesson!   They might just “love” you for this!