Why Use an "Emergent Curriculum" in Social Skills Groups?

An emergent curriculum is a best practice based on building a lesson plan on the shifting foundation of a child's interests and developmental needs. It requires flexibility, and the time it takes to get to know each child individually and listen deeply to their interests. 

An emergent curriculum is a natural organizing principle for social skills groups for children on the Autism Spectrum and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder because the work of learning social thinking happens most easily in the context of real world situations. 

Making the decision to commit to the principal of an emergent curriculum does not mean that you must abandon evidence based practice and tested methods of teaching social skills. A session may start out with a clear objective on the group facilitators end, and then evolve based on information and needs that the children bring to the dynamic. 

So what does an emergent curriculum look like? a group facilitator has taken the time to get to know each child and has a detailed social and recreational profile filled out at home by the child and their parent. The objective for the session is practice "putting yourself in someone else's shoes". The facilitator knows that two group members favor different baseball teams, and that they recently played each other. Rather than building the excercise around something abstract, the facilitator encourages they children to identify the other childs emotions in a context of something tangible and relevant.

The comittment to teach social skills using an emergent curriculum means more planning and requires thinking on ones feet, but the payoff in terms of connecting the skills that a child with Autism or ADHD need to develop to real world relevancy is immense.

Aaron Weintraub, MS runs child-centered social skills groups with a focus on children and teenagers withPervasive Developmental DisorderAsperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Shyness. Strengths-based approach in a community based setting. Groups available in Tolland, Mansfield, Willimantic, Hartford, Vernon and Coventry Connecticut.