In my office, the majority of my day is spent helping my clients pinpoint their current social communication skills, identify their strengths, and move toward their “just right” social skills zone.
It’s so easy to get caught up in what skills are missing…what skills are wrong. It makes sense that you may experience social anxiety, when you’re consistently told that your “best guess” is not good enough. Kids already receive that feedback from their peers. As parents and providers, our job is to motivate, not belittle. This is where I like to utilize a continuum to highlight the skill we’re discussing.
Once, my brilliant friend (Rachel Bedard, PhD – Fort Collins autism specialist), framed a social skill we were discussing as falling on a continuum of “less mature” to “more mature”. Rather than pointing out that the skill was “wrong” for a situation, was it possible that the skill was just a bit “too mature” for a room of third graders?
Time to make. that. continuum.
Identify your target skills (for example, social humor), and map it out. Generally I like to create 3-4 zones.
- super baby – if you need to bring humor to the task…and if it’s appropriate
- less mature – what you notice younger people doing
- just right – what your same-aged peers are doing
- more mature – what you’ll use in the future
Ask your child/client to map 2-3 uses of humor that would fall in each category. If a guess is incorrect (not a lot of high school girls telling fart jokes), ask them to give examples of when this joke is being used (and by whom), and if it was successful in making people laugh? Slide around the skills until they fall in their target zones. Practice taking perspective – if I were to ask your classmates, where would they place you on this continuum? What about your mom? Where would you place yourself?
Lastly, it’s “create a plan” time! If you’re already in your “just right” zone, awesome. If not, that’s okay too! You know why? Because our brilliant and creative brains allow us to learn new skills to move toward that zone. Identify 2-3 skills that will help move you the direction you need to go. Think of opportunities where you might be able to practice your “just right” skills, and place yourself in those opportunities. Remember, it’s expected to have some mishaps when trying a new skill, but you’re moving in that “just right” direction. You’ve got this!
Questions about continuums? Give me a call or send an email.