Time to Talk: Mapping Out Childrens’ Behavior

Barriers to Learning: Part 2

Our behaviors are stitched together by a series of reactions…how we respond to things, how we process and then how we move on to another reaction. For children it is important to have some recognition of behavior and how reactions dovetail.

In my last article, I talked about how behaviors interfere with children’s learning and can impact their emotional, vocational, and economic futures. One important factor that positively impacts learning is the ability to think and reason. We can teach self-regulation of emotions. First, the child needs to understand that no one can think when they are emotional. I already explained using a 1-5 rating scale for “How big is my problem?” and “How big is my reaction?” The game “Should I or Shouldn’t I?” gives kids practice using a rating scale. Turning music on, then off for practice calming down was also mentioned in my previous article.

I recently started using the Breathe, Think, Do app by Sesame Street. It has common childhood problems built in. You make the monster calm down, you listen to his choices and choose one; then the monster does the choice and sees the consequences. I like that kids are able to sense the time it takes to calm down (the monster takes three deep breaths as they tap his belly; they pop bubbles as the monster thinks about a solution to the problem).

I also use social mapping based on the work of Michelle Garcia-Winner of www.socialthinking.com. I have made my own template, and I write a scenario on the top. We discuss expected and unexpected choices, then we follow one choice down the map from the choice, to others’ feelings, others’ actions, and our feelings in the end. Then we switch to the other choice and do the same. Many children only remember what others do for actions, and how it made them feel. They forget that they had a choice that affected others’ feelings. The map clearly shows the choices and consequences. It also includes a “feeling meter” with a dark side representing negative emotions, and a light side representing positive emotions. This helps them to see that there is a continuum of feelings that we have, not just good and bad. Here is an example of a map:
We then take the expected choice on the social map and use it to make a comic about what happens when we choose the expected choice using the Strip Designer app.

Here is an example of a comic using photos of the child talking about the expected behavior on the social map. As we plan the comics, we discuss the expected behavior. I guide the children, but often the scripts are their own words.
The second comic is a lesson on using a social filter before we speak to others.  A social filter requires taking the other person’s perspective and anticipating their reaction before we speak. Then we make choose what to say to make them have good thoughts about us.

These are just a few visual supports that help make social thinking lessons more effective. The children are taught in an objective and creative way, so they have fun as they learn. Next time you are attending an event Hilltown Families features, observe your child’s interactions. Is there a lesson that could be taught through social mapping and comic strips?

[Photo credit: (cc) Daniel]


Kathy Puckett

Kathy is a private practice speech-language pathologist living in Shelburne, MA and the author of our monthly speech and language column, Time to Talk. Living in Western Massachusetts since 1970, she raised two children here and has two grandsons, ages 15 and 8 years old. She has worked as an SLP with people of all ages for the last 14 years. She runs social thinking skill groups and often works with teens. As a professional artist, she has a unique and creative approach to her practice. She loves technology, neurology, gardening, orchids, and photography. She uses an iPad for therapies. She grows 500 orchids and moderates her own forum for orchid growers (Crazy Orchid Lady). Kathy is dedicated to the families of her private practice, and offers practical, creative ideas to parents. She blogs about communication at kathypuckett.com.

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