Using Narratives to Develop Social Skills

Narrative Strategies for Navigating Social Situations

Although there are neurological differences that contribute to gaps in social connectedness, narratives can help to teach how to interact more appropriately and even how to self-regulate. Narratives usually offer key pieces of understanding that help the individual see a situation more fully, and have some strategies with which to navigate that situation more successfully. By including their own feelings about the situation, the individual can also feel “heard” or validated about their perspective.

People holding hands under cloud with social media communication

There have been several pioneers in this type of intervention, most notably Carol Gray of The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding , who is the author of Social Stories™. There are several books and many internet resources available on this specific strategy.

A narrative is a brief story or vignette that describes a specific situation with clarifying information. Depending on the challenges presented by the individual, the story or vignette may give insight into why this is important to others, and what they might do differently in order to achieve success in this situation.

There are a variety of presentation styles and options that can be used to meet the needs of diverse learners through narratives.

Neurological stress can be the reason behind difficulties in the classroom

Using a schedule to help reduce neurological stress at school

Perhaps most relevant to the classroom, when you are stressed, you are less likely to embrace difficult tasks. On your most stressful day, you will probably put the complex tax form in the “to do” box and leave it for a better day. For our students, neurological stress can be the major underlying factor contributing to difficulties in communication, socialization, and academic performance.

Child at school

It is our essential job, as parents and educators, to respect the neurological differences and decrease that stress in creative and varied ways. From breathing techniques to visual strategies and beyond, we will strive to decrease neurological stress so that our students and children can present their best self each and every day.

A core strategy that creates an anchor for students who struggle to make sense of their day and their environment is a schedule.

How to cope with Anxiety and Fear

Q&A with Lisa Rogers

 

Q: Dear Lisa,

Currently my son has a fear of his pants falling down. We tried belts that he buckles too tightly. He still fears the pants will fall and the buckle gives extra sensory problems. We tried sweatpants that he ties tightly, still fearful. All day he hikes his pants up. I tried to show him the pants can’t be pulled down but this doesn’t help. He also insists on wearing underwear two sizes too big. He is 8 and diagnosed as PDD-NOS. Could you direct me to any information to help him? This fear is causing multiple meltdowns daily. I don’t know what to do.

Thank you.

-Anonymous

A: Dear Mom or Dad,

Multiple meltdowns each day can certainly take its toll on your son and your family. I understand how critical this issue is for you and will do my best to provide helpful information for you to consider.

In order to be most helpful, I do need to ask a few questions first.

Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism: Taste and the Picky Eater

Many parents experience the “picky eater” from time to time. As with most differences on the autism spectrum, the difference in describing the picky eater with autism can be found in the intensity or degree.  Because of this relative understanding, one might be critical of the parent with a child with autism and tell them they just need to make their child eat food that is more nutritionally sound. But the “picky eater” is really just someone with sensory processing issues in regards to taste.

taste, picky eater, Sensory Processing Disorder, Aspergers

I was in a meeting where the educators and the parents were discussing the narrow food choices of the daughter as being a nutritional and even behavioral concern. At one point, one of the educators told the parents that she, herself, had a picky eater, and that she just had to lay down the rules and “force” the issue. The teacher proceeded to tell the parents that they should do the same thing. The mother became upset very quickly and in a raised voice told the educator, “Don’t you think I’ve tried everything to make her eat healthy?! I’ve had food spit out at me more times than I can count, and I’ve had the kitchen torn apart after a food-related meltdown . . . I’ve done it ALL!!!” 

I am trying to make the point that we are talking about a matter that goes beyond “picky eating”.

Tips for Student Self-Management in the Classroom

Self-management techniques have been found to be more effective in managing student behavior than teacher-mediated interventions (Stage & Quiroz, 1997; Fitzpatrick & Knowlton, 2009). When self-management strategies are linked to functionally equivalent behavioral interventions, students increased the amount of time on-task, demonstrated more appropriate social behaviors, and completed more assignments.

Student Self-Management Interventions DESCRIPTION

  • Self-monitoring: Students both observe and record targeted behaviors.
  • Self-evaluation: A student compares his or her performance to established criteria.
  • Self-instruction: Student-directed behavior is guided through the use of self-statements.
  • Goal-setting: Students select a goal and create personal guidelines for commitment, and progress toward that goal.

When possible, incorporate the student’s interest as in the following example.

selfeval

How to Help ASD Students Express Their Feelings and De-Escalate a Meltdown

Feelings Chart

If a student can express their inner feelings, then adults could help them prevent further escalation. This can be done by engaging the student in conversation about the problem, or beginning a calming activity. Often however, the student has difficulty expressing those feelings until it is too late. A feelings chart may be an effective visual support to help students express how they are feeling with or without using any words.

Feelings Chart in Class

In order for the feelings chart to be an effective strategy, students must understand the meaning of different feelings represented at each level. What does it mean to feel great versus having a problem?  Connecting meaning for each feeling may require direct instruction. Lessons to build this understanding can be done in a variety of ways, including the use of props or pictures of self or others.

Using Topic Cards to Develop Social Skills in ASD Youth

Topic cards are similar to scripts in that they can help students engage in a variety of topics, beyond their own interests. They are different in that they include just a few words that describe a topic that launch a student or group students in a particular direction. 

Using Choice to Increase Academic Success

A teacher had created a special lunch group to help a student at the middle school level engage in appropriate teen conversations. She had one main interest and it would dominate every conversation. Her interest was in princesses and everything having to do with them. For most young teen girls, princesses were not much of an interesting topic for them.

Preventing Meltdowns

When dealing with meltdowns, the most important things to consider are the triggers that lead to a meltdown. It might appear that the behavior just erupts out of nowhere, but there is almost always a trigger. It might be a series of things that have a cumulative effect, making it difficult to ascertain just one culprit.

However, good data collection that looks closely at the antecedents will provide some clues. Data on the antecedents, or triggers, should include the time of day, persons involved, specific activities and location.  Any other relevant information such as changes in medication, illness or other physiological conditions should be included. 

How to Use a Checklist to Keep Students on Task

For some students, a simple checklist is all they need to get them started and keep them moving through academic activities. The following is an example of such a checklist:

1The checklist corresponds to the numbered folders. The student knows to complete the work in the four folders. After checking each number off, the student then has a few minutes to engage in a highly reinforcing activity.

Hygiene and Social Skills: Mom seeking help towards a diagnosis

Q&A with LisaRogers

Q&A with Lisa Rogers

Q: Dear Lisa,

We think our daughter has Asperger’s. It’s all only her way and she bursts out laughing at very awkward times. She has no friends and doesn’t’ seem to care about her hygiene or people skills. I’m not sure where to go or what to do. We live in a rural area in Tennessee. Does the school or doctor’s office help? I’m reading online and found aspergers101 and it seems the closest to finding what is wrong.

-Mary Andrews, Greenbrier Tennessee

A: Dear Mary,

While I live in Texas, there are some federal guidelines that mandate certain functions at the state level that should provide some guidance to you and your family. Go to the following link for some initial information: