We always talk about the importance of using visuals with students, but visuals for parents are equally important. In my private practice, where the focus of therapy is on social skills, there are two posters that help parents understand the concepts their child is working on as well as the direction of our therapy. I like to refer to these posters when explaining how our activities align with building social communication and social cognition skills.
For younger children, I rely on Social Thinking’s Building Blocks poster. First, it’s important to explain that social cognition skills develop from birth. I point out that although there are 5 “layers” of skills, each is related and dependent upon the other. Although all the blocks are critical, I draw special attention to Joint Attention. This early developing communication skill is when two people (usually a baby and caretaker) share eye gaze and gestures with respect to interesting objects or events. This milestone is critical for group play, interaction and cooperation with others.
Executive function and emotional self-regulation are components also critical to social skill development. Although young children are very impulse-driven, increasing emotional vocabulary and teaching them how to function within the parameters of a group will help them be successful in numerous social contexts. Executive function skills involve the ability to set a goal, make a plan and assess your own progress along the way. This is especially important when students are engaged in teamwork and group activities.
When talking to parents of my older students, I like to reference Social Thinking’s Social Learning Tree. Like a tree, social skill competence requires a strong foundation or “root” system. Like the building blocks, these include language, executive function and emotional regulation. The “root” system supports development of social skills that are easily visible and usually the reason parents bring their children to therapists for “social skill remediation”. However, the Social Learning Tree helps me to explain to parents how important it is to develop a strong root system and not, as Social Thinking’s founder Michelle Garcia Winner states, “teach in the leaves”.
Social development and learning is a complex system, and this post by no means is intended to explain all the components included in the posters. For more in-depth understanding please visit the Social Thinking website here.
Do you use visuals to help parent’s understand the context and direction of your therapy? If you have, which ones have been helpful?
This month, I’m happy to be joined by a few friends from Special Education Bloggers! Take a look at their posts for other great ideas!