Social Skills Class
My son and I are taking a “Social Skills” class at Children’s Hospital. A class that I find a lot of kids would benefit from (whether they are on the spectrum or not) since it explains what personal space is, how to name feelings, how to read other people’s faces/reactions, what a proper tone of voice is and how to keep a conversation going. They have given us a great number of tools to work with and revisit as new situations present themselves.
Conversations we all need to have with our kids
I found that a lot of the discussions we had in this class helped to start conversations with my daughter (she is not on the spectrum), to help her navigate social interactions, and how sometimes we are not sure how to react to grown-ups’ and other kids’ demands whether on the playground and/or in general.
Both my kids are starting new schools and both schools are a lot bigger than the ones they attended last year. The classrooms are bigger, and they will be exposed to more people than they are used to. This means new friends and new authority figures. I found it very helpful to be given tools to discuss when and what is appropriate in different situations in a way that is easy for kids to understand.
One of the many useful and important conversations we had was about how to understand / classify who can what with them. Here is an example.
Let me explain: This chart breaks down groups of people that kids have interaction with almost daily, and it classifies them in groups from closest to strangers, and it assigns a color to each. Then, names who fall in which category (mom, dad, grandma, aunt, teachers, coaches, etc). Then, it breaks down what are the rules for personal space for each color:
Green :: Mom and Dad (and whomever you consider are OK here) are the people we hug and kiss and can help us in the bathroom and see us naked, and we obey requests.
Yellow :: Teachers and friends (for example), we don’t kiss, we don’t allow them to touch our privates, but we do follow their directions (teachers and coaches).
Red :: Strangers or people we don’t know well, we don’t have to obey their demands unless a green person is there to agree.
You can make it as extensive or concise as you wish, but I would keep it very simple particularly for the younger ones.
“When you know better, you do better”
I sat down with both my kids and we filled it out together and while doing this we explained why. I found this chart VERY helpful to introduce the boundary subject in a way a 5-year-old can understand without making them afraid of people. I do worry (a lot) about what happens when I am not there to check on them, but I find it hard to find a way to talk to them about it in a way that they can understand.
This is a subject that my fellow NOM writer Katy touched in her post “I am teaching my kids not to trust you” ….. and I think that her point is very important. We need to give them the tools to be safe and to read situations that can be confusing but not making them afraid of people. When you know better, you do better.