Are you using Social Thinking’s Size of My Problem poster? I received mine about 2 weeks ago, and it has already proved to be an invaluable resource.
Talking about the size of the problem and emotional reaction are concepts that have been part of my therapeutic vocabulary for a long time. Most of my career has been working with children labeled “emotionally” or “behaviorally” disturbed; many have medical diagnoses of autism spectrum and/or attention deficit. These are kids with significant difficulties regulating their emotions and understanding the effect of their behaviors on others. Last year I initiated a school-wide Social Thinking curriculum to help students learn how our communication and behaviors effect the thoughts and feelings of others. We started with the Zones of Regulation, and have spent a great deal of time discussing that problems and reactions come in different sizes. The hidden rule is that when we are with other people, our reaction or behavior should match the size of the problem.
The Size of the Problem poster occupies a space on a visually prominent wall in my room. On one occasion, an adolescent boy with ASD/LD was chastised about continually teasing a female classmate. His reaction to the teacher’s criticism was way over the top! Of course, this was at the exact moment that I was picking him up for speech. Luckily it was an individual session, and coming to speech is also calming for him. We used the Size of the Problem/Reaction poster to discuss his problem and reaction. One of the most significant results was that he described the concept of feeling embarrassed and used the vocabulary — a major achievement for this student.
This visual poster led to an eye-opening discussion: he actually has a crush on his target (surprise!) but does not know how to get her attention. With teasing, he gets negative attention from his crush, and for him and many of our students, negative attention is better than no attention at all! My role has now been to teach him two things: 1. the effect his teasing is having on a girl he really likes, and 2. positive ways to gain her attention.
To make these concepts concrete, I first used behavior mapping to display the effect of his teasing. This was truly eye-opening for my student who, despite hearing her objections to the teasing, did not understand how it was making her feel!
The second step was to provide a skill set to replace the negative skills (teasing). My student wanted her attention but had no idea how to go about getting it! Together we generated three things he could say that would make her feel happy and have good thoughts about him. Working with counselors and teachers is helping to generalize the skills, and although this was only a few weeks ago, the teasing has reduced.
Here are a few more examples of how I have used the poster in my lessons. After going through the steps together, one boy remarked that his reaction had created a bigger problem since he was put into “time out”!
A few things that I especially like about The Size of My Problem poster is that there are brief directions on the bottom of the poster AND it has a dry erase surface!
Have you used the Size of My Problem Poster? How has it worked for you?