Who Benefits From Social Skills Classes?

Every child, with his/her unique strengths,  learns in a different way. Some children excel at math, while others struggle. Some children learn to read with ease, while others find it to be frustrating and difficult. One child may learn the proper way to say /k/ while others need to be specifically taught place, manner, and voicing.  Social skills are no different.

Children who have difficulties understanding social situations often do not see the  “rules” on the playground. They are typically the children that have to “pull their clip”, “go below the line”, or get a letter or phone call home. Often times, these children need specific instruction to learn what their peers, parents, and teachers expect from them. To those of us who have never had trouble understanding social expectations, this may seem absurd.

What we know is every behavior happens for a reason. For example, one child hits another during recess. He/she may not intend to be mean but really is looking for a way to be part of the group.  Hitting has been a way this student has gotten a response in the past to get another  child’s attention. When we take the time to teach that child appropriate ways to enter and exit play with another  would help prevent him/her from hitting in the future. The child has now learned skills and has a “toolbox” to pull from instead of hitting.  Another example is for the child who consistently comes home with a “bad” report (clip pulling, red cards, etc.).  Why is this behavior happening and what skills need to be taught instead of “managed”? Usually the behavior happens because the child is receiving some type of feedback before, during, or after.  What would happen if we understood the behavior, taught them a new way to receive their feedback, and then offered positive reinforcement every single time we saw them do it?  When we help children learn these skills in a non-judgemental way, we begin to see an improvement in their behavior and an increase in self-awareness.

The process of teaching children how to think socially does not change behavior overnight. Instead, it is a slow and deep process that requires time and patience. It also requires a village. When a therapist, teacher, etc. is teaching a child social skills, it’s important to carry those skills into his/her other environments like school and home. Communication is key. Communicating with your child’s teacher and school and letting them know what he/she is learning and how they can help support your child during the school day is important. If you sign your child up for a social skills class, please ask how you can learn the vocabulary. Also ask how they communicate with your child’s teacher. When there is a lack of communication outside of the social skills group room,  then you will typically only see improvement within the social skill group but limited progress in other environments.   One sentence from the Social Thinking! curriculum really stood out to us.  It said “Generalization is not an endpoint; it is simply part of the journey.”   We need to make sure  the child has adults who support him/her on the journey in learning social skills.

With Appreciation,

Wendy and Christina

Please Don’t Say “It Will Be Okay”

We’re both special educators.  We’ve both worked in a variety of environments and in different roles with children with various disabilities.  We have collaborated and continue to collaborate with other professionals.  We get it.  We understand the paperwork, the state requirements, the long days.  However, we also are both moms to children with disabilities.  We continuously sit on both sides of the table.  We have sat and heard information about our children that hurts our heart.  We see where they’ve been excluded in a game or a social activity at school because of their differences. To their teachers, we promise to try to support you.  As moms with a background of knowledge, we do have times where we  feel frustration with the system, frustration of missed deadlines or IEPs not completely being followed.

With all of this being said, we would like to go back to one point in particular. As a teacher, please don’t say “it will be okay.” Those words stir up my insides. When I come to you to tell you about my child with a disability, please don’t tell me you’ve worked with “kids like him before”. You may have worked with a child with ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or another disability like my child’s, but you have not yet worked with MY child. He is unique and his triggers are different from the last child with whom you worked.   As parents, we often collaborate with other professionals to help our family and our children.  When we offer to share that information with you, it’s inviting you into our inner circle.  Please take our extended hand instead of saying you already know about this diagnosis and “it will be okay.”  We are asking for you to join us in collaborating for the highest benefit of our child. As parents, we will do our best to speak respectfully to you and help understand your views and perspective.  We ask for the same courtesy back. Parents know their children best.  We can share what our child’s fears are, what his/her dreams are, and what makes him/her happy and sad. Those things are unique to each child and go beyond a diagnosis.

We agree there are some generalizations we can make based on a specific diagnosis. Our children, however, are still unique. It is so important in our children’s lives that the adults   get to know them, just like you do with other children.  Taking the time to make those individual connections with our children will help with understanding what they need to be taught.  Often times, our children need to be taught skills that other children pick up naturally in their development.  Getting to know them personally and collaborating with parents and other professionals helps you stretch and grow as an educator and in return will help our children do the same.

Yes, we too believe that it can “be okay”. We also recognize that for this to even be a possibility, we ALL need to work together and do our best to hear the words that each of us has to offer. This is the reason why we created this company. Let us help by being the bridge that spans the gap. The only way that it can actually “be okay” is if we all learn how to work together for a common interest: the success of our children.

With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

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