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Building Social Skills: Reactions Are What Matter

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus

Kids with social communication disorders struggle to understand the true social
meaning of this quote. Parents, therapists, and teachers work daily to teach this
social life skill.  Kiddos live in the here and now of what makes them happy or
content at the moment. Teaching the appropriate social skills of how to react to
an unpleasant situation can be just as important as to what actually occurred. This
can be difficult for kids to understand especially those who mainly view situations
in the world as right or wrong without seeing the possibility of gray.
 
Using social stories to teach this skill can be helpful.  Social stories are just
that – stories of what happened.  Kids write or draw the situation that occurred in
sequential order (first, second, third, etc…).  As the kids are creating their stories,
they may need your help in remembering what occurred.  Explain to the kids the need
to write social stories and how these stories can help them.

3 Simple Steps to Help You Start Using Social Stories Today

1.    Re-tell:  Kids re-tell exactly what happened through writing a story or drawing
                  a picture story.  Think of this as road map or story map of what occurred.
                  This can be done in second or third person.  Provide your child
                  with crayons, pencil and paper, and let him decide how to re-tell the story.

2.    Discuss:  Talk with the kids about what went right and what went wrong in the story.
                  Allow the kids to fully express their feelings of what occurred in their
                  social story.  Discuss and problem solve how well the situation went or
                  how the situation may have been handled differently resulting in better
                  or worse outcomes.  Providing a visual chart of what actually happened and
                  predicting better/worse outcomes could be helpful in teaching appropriate
                  social skills.

3.    Role play: Act out with the kiddos the situation in the social story and
                   how the situation may have turned out differently with more socially appropriate
                   responses.  It is interesting to see how the kids portray the characters
                   in the story. The kids may enjoy acting out the social story, and you
                   could encourage the kids to use different voices and small props when
                   role playing.  Praise the kids for their efforts in role playing the situations.

It is important to teach kids that everyone at some point feels hurt, betrayed, and sad; however,
how they socially respond to those situations can affect the outcome whether positive or
negative.  Using social stories allows kids opportunities for success in various social
situations and allows for positive reinforcement of desired behaviors.  Kids want to react
appropriately in situations as they want others to like them and they want to make friends.
When kids respond poorly in situations, they do not intend to be disrespectful, hurtful or mean
to others; they simply do not understand how to socially respond to challenging situations, and
it is our job to teach them.

Wishing you the best,

Frankie