Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A guest post on Social Skills

Today I have asked, Felice from thedabblingspeechie to guest post on Social Groups. If you don't currently have a social group, Felice's tips prove that starting one is easy! 

Nicole has asked me to guest post on about how I implement social pragmatic skills in my therapy groups.  First off, let me just say that I love her blog.  Her therapy ideas are very innovative and creative and she has a heart of gold, so it was a no brainer that I would agree to share some of my insights about teaching social skills.
Even though teaching social skills is a passion of mine, I still get overwhelmed with how to serve students with social-skill delays because pragmatics affects SO many areas of communication and functional life situations.  It can be a very daunting task to be the “social skills expert” on your campus that your colleagues turn to for resources and help. 
I decided last year to target social communication in the classroom setting as opposed to in my therapy room.  I work with an amazing speechie SDC 4-6th grade teacher who agreed to let me push into her classroom once a week for 30 minutes to do a social skills lesson.  Each week I plan an activity and try to tailor it around the needs of her classroom (we often collaborate via email or in the hallway, lol).  In the beginning, I spent 3-4 sessions reviewing and teaching social skill vocabulary such as expected vs. unexpected behaviors, good thought vs. not so good thought, how we make an impression, whole body listening and keeping our brain in the group.  This gave my SDC teacher time to watch me teach and use the vocabulary.  It also allowed her to assess how she could infuse my lessons and social vocabulary into her curriculum.  Now, my SDC teacher uses the vocabulary concepts all day long during classroom instruction time to provide feedback when students are making a “good” impression, displaying an unexpected behavior (i.e. shouting out in class, knocking over chairs, refusing to do work, etc) or when their brain isn’t in the group.  Since I have been pushing in her classroom, the students are now using the vocabulary with each other and beginning to identify when their behavior, words, and nonverbal cues are expected or unexpected for a social situation.  The success with my SDC student’s social skills is largely due to using a team approach and working with their teacher to implement the lessons that I bring in the classroom.  I do not use this model with all my kids on my caseload who need social skill development because of many factors.  Sometimes I do not have buy-in with the teacher or our schedules do not match up.  Secondly, my caseload can get rather high in numbers and I do not have extra time to spare (I may only have one student in a classroom and need to use that time slot to service many children from other classrooms as well).  This model can be great if you have a lot of kids in one class that need to be serviced.  You can see the whole class, making sure 10 students get intervention in a 30 minute period instead of 5 students, so it can be a time saver and more efficient service delivery model.  I would love to use this model more often, but as we all know, all the pieces to the puzzle have to fit in order to make something work.  So, I developed a few tips about implementing a social skills curriculum in the classroom setting.
  • a. Start small.  Try out some of your resources/activities in your therapy room first before you branch out into the classroom setting.  You want to make sure you have enough curriculum resources to use in the classroom setting as well as feel comfortable with the material, so that you are confident when teaching in a larger setting. 
  • b.  Pick a teacher that you like and work well with.  You want to work with a teacher who is open to new ideas.  This will help you out with public relations.  Teachers and staff talk.  So, word will get around about ALL the cool things you are doing in their classroom and pretty soon, more teachers will want you helping them out!
  • c.  Think functional.  Ask the teacher, parents, recess duty, office staff and para-educators what the student is struggling with during the school day.  You can then target those skills in the therapy room or classroom.  Some examples of therapy lessons would be talking on the phone, expected/unexpected behaviors on the school bus, asking for information in the office, wanting to join a group on the playground, etc.
  • d.  Go with the flow!  If a teachable social skill happens to come up during therapy, address it right then and there.  I have abandoned many elaborate lesson plans to work on why it’s weird to ask girls we DON’T KNOW to be our girlfriend or why it’s annoying to poke your friends after they said “Stop!”
  • e.  Put a time frame on your services.  If you aren’t able to stay consist with the service for the whole year, agree to push in for a 6 week period.  This allows you to show case your skills as a therapist and train a teacher with the essential tools they may need without being locked in for more responsibilities then you can complete.  It also frees you up to then spend another 6 weeks helping out another teacher, allowing you to share your knowledge with more teachers and staff.

Most of my resources and vocabulary concepts come from Michelle Winner Garcia who has broken down the layers of social communication, so that it is easier to teach these skills to students who have a hard time grasping the big picture of social thinking!  I would recommend attending one of her conferences and/or purchasing her resources Thinking About YOU, Thinking About ME, 2nd Edition and Think Social!  A Social Thinking Curriculum for School-Aged Students to help you with assessment, writing goals and conducting therapy.  I have found that Jill Kuzma's blog to be very helpful as well.  I also want to share some fabulous resources I have been using from my fellow speechies that I grabbed off of TPT that are affordable and very functional for our caseloads.
My Help! I Need Social Skills pack has lessons to work on perspective taking, tone of voice, identifying expected vs. unexpected behaviors,  identifying what is missing from a social situation, and explaining the impression people are making.

Speech Room News blog by Jenna Rayburn has lots of great social skill packs.  The pack I have used the most is her In Your Shoes feelings, problem solving and inferencing pack.  It is based on teaching students that expression “thinking in someone else’s shoes”.  You can change the activity to have students answer the questions the way a teacher might think, a 3 year old or a mother.  The possibilities are endless.

The Super Social Skills pack was made by If I Only Had Super Powers blogger.  It is a great pack filled with super hero posters, social stories, and game activities to work on expected vs. unexpected behaviors, emotions, asking questions in a conversation, thinking about others, problem solving and how to be responsible.

Last, but not least, The Speech Bubble has created a very cute Social Skills Circus pack that works on perspective taking, conversation starters , problem solving, and working on how to keep a conversation going.

My last piece of advice is TRY SOMETHING NEW!  Even if the lesson fails because the kids weren’t interested or it was WAY over their heads, you still learned something about teaching social skills.  Most of my aha moments come from just jumping in the game and trying out a new move.  Thank you for having me and I hope this post brought you some direction with how to implement social skills with the kids on your caseload.  Good luck on the rest of the school year!
Take care, Felice (thedabblingspeechie)

*Thanks so much Felice! What easy and practical tips! Also-I just saw this! For information about secondary social groups, hop on over to Let's Talk Speech-Language Pathology!

1 comment:

Nicole Allison