Social Skills can often be hard skills to address with individuals who are on the Autism Spectrum. There are no two children with Autism who are the same. This means their needs are most likely not the same! However, there is a curriculum I have found that helps to address foundational social interaction skills.
This summer I’ve done some work with some preschool and young school age students (children ranging from almost 4 to almost 7) using Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Curriculum. If you haven’t heard of Michelle Garcia Winner (MGW) please take a few minutes to visit her website and check out her stuff. She has awesome resources, webinars, and products that help you teach her curriculum and I promise they don’t disappoint! https://www.socialthinking.com/
(I’m in no way associated with her I just really appreciate her evidence based work and all the products that help me teach it!)
I have already introduced my students to her “We Thinkers” series, volume 1. In this series foundational concepts are introduced. She starts by teaching children about “thinking thoughts and feeling feelings” and using “whole body listening.” The books also demonstrate the importance of concepts such as “thinking with your eyes” and keeping your “body in the group”. Students also learn about what a “group plan” is and how to follow it. Since my students had knowledge and experience with these very important concepts I began introducing more complex concepts from the “We Thinkers” series, volume 2.
The first book in this series is “Hidden Rules and Expected and Unexpected Behaviors.” It has been the focus of our sessions this summer. The characters in the book go on a pirate adventure and make some mistakes because they don’t know that the pirate ship has some “hidden rules.” Students also learn the difference between expected and unexpected behaviors and how these types of behaviors make other people feel. After reading the book, our group had some fun recalling previously taught concepts and solidifying some of the new concepts. We began by following a “group plan.” I intentionally made this plan similar to the plan the characters followed in the book.
Then we followed our group plan! Each child picked a pirate accessory or piece of clothing to wear for our group that day.
I included other random items so we could discuss that one of the hidden rules of the boat was that you dress like a pirate, not a superhero or a rainbow princess or an army solider. Each of the four students had something that made them look more like a pirate.
Next, we pretended to “clean up our ship” because that’s what the characters in the book did. We quickly “cleaned up” by picking up all the pirate swords from the Pop up Pirate Game which the kids all loved!
We then proceeded to quickly make our own “sails” so we could sail our ship towards the treasure. This was simply a triangle piece of paper glued to a large craft stick. It was nice that each student had a sail and we could work together to “sail” our ship in the same direction.
After our sailing was finished I gave each student a treasure map. These were a huge hit!
With treasure maps in hand, we kept our “bodies in the group” and went to look for our treasure. We walked around the room keeping our bodies close together but not touching which is hard sometimes!
Lastly, we did some “thinking with our eyes” and found the treasure!
The students were so excited to find the treasure! I was excited that I got to review old and new vocabulary concepts from the curriculum and allow the kids to actually experience some of them as well.