What's in a face

The trick when teaching the reading of facial expression is that while each person expresses happiness, gratitude, anger, and frustration uniquely, there is an almost ineffable element of commonality just below the surface which can be difficult to identify.  

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A Passion for Trying New Things

​Each week in the Kids Cooperate Social Groups, we try a new sensory experience as part of the Social Sensory Cognition Process. This week, Passion Fruit...

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What is Your Superpower?

What would your super power be? If you are a young person, or remember being a young person, you know this is a powerful Rorschach test.   For a socially awkward child, exploring this can be therapeutic.

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Adding Theraplay to the Autism Spectrum Toolbox

At Kids Cooperate, we believe that play based therapy is the most effective way to learn, integrate, and generalize new tools and strategies for coping with the emotional and sensory stresses faced by many children on the Autism Spectrum.​

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The Far Side of Emotion

The best lessons to teach are the ones you've learned​ yourself. One of my favorite things to do growing up was to pour over my books of The Far Side comics by Gary Larson. A scientist by trade, Larson drew what he knew best. Science, animals, and anxiety related to the pranks his older brother would play on him growing up, and his awareness of the randomness of life and death. 

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This Week, Music!

​This week at Kids Cooperate we are pleased to welcome music therapist Kimmie Borovicka of Musical Pathways to all groups. ​

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Raising a Confident Child, Locus of Control

​As parents, a common hope for our children is that they will make good, confident decisions and think ​for themselves. Your child's perception of whether the course of their lives are controlled primarily by their own thoughts and actions, or external circumstances is referred to by developmental psychologists as "locus of control".

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THINKING BEYOND SUMMER CAMP: GETTING YOUR CHILD OUTSIDE

Summer vacation is here. What will your child do with their new free time? In order to ensure that their summer isn't spent on an ipod or in front of a television set, plan out and some activities to get them outdoors and communing with nature. Better yet, show how important you think outside time is and get some quality time with your child by participating in these activities yourself.

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TOO CLOSE! TEACHING BOUNDARIES IN AUTISM SOCIAL SKILLS GROUPS

This activity can be used in autism social skills to teach about personal space and non verbal cues. It helps children to develop a "theory of mind" by encouraging them to put themselves in another person's place. Some autism spectrum researchers identify a lack of theory of mind as the main difference between neuro typical children and children on the autism spectrum making it a key intervention point.

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MOUSE! TUNING IN TO FACIAL EXPRESSION IN AUTISM SOCIAL SKILLS GROUPS

One of my very favorite ways to help kids tune in to non-verbal cues from facial expressions (and a favorite of the kids) is a game called Mouse. I came across this in Autism, Play, and Social Interaction (Gammeltoft & Nordenhof, 2007)

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A SYMPHONY OF SMALL VICTORIES: RESULTS MANAGEMENT MODEL OF AUTISM SOCIAL SKILLS PLANNING

Social skills groups cross the line from fun to effective when there is the correct blend of art and science. The art is the flexibility, creativity, and carefully nurtured group dynamic. The science comes from a cycle of planning, observation, and adjustment.

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Play is a Child's Work

Play is a child's work. It is through imaginative play that children process and integrate the social and cultural information that they experience. The social learning that happens during play lays the foundation for social communication and emotional regulation skills that become important for getting and keeping a job, and maintaining close healthy relationships throughout life. 

The imaginative games that children play equip them to read and intuit the feelings of others, laying the groundwork for the development of authentic empathy. For children on the autism spectrum, the ability to take the perspective of another is one of the most important challenges.

Cognitive development progresses through stages of grouping information, or schemas. As new information is encountered, it must be fit into an existing schema or a new schema can be developed. For example, the "cat" schema may include house cats, lions, and tigers, but when your child sees a weasel with catlike paws and whiskers, they must process and integrate that it does not fit into the "cat" category.

April is Autism Awareness Month, so it is worth mentioning that for children on the autism spectrum, imaginative and cooperative play may not come naturally. Adults can scaffold play by including neuro-typical children, interactive manipulatives, a well organized environment, visual supports, and a consistent routine.

An example of how prosocial behavior is supported by cooperative play can be seen in a simple game of "hot and cold". One child must hide an object and then encourage the other child to locate it by encouraging them with "hot"as they get closer to discovering it and "cold" as they get further away. This interaction requires perspective taking (I know something my friend does not), social exchange (I offer verbal prompts which affect my friends movements), and central coherence or situational appropriateness (I can give hints but should not reveal the answer because it would ruin the game).

Children process their experiences through imaginative play. You can support your child's development by engaging them in make believe! Remember to let your child take the lead in setting up the scenario and be flexible about rapidly shifting rules and roles.

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. 
http://kidscooperate.com
860-576-9506

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. 
http://kidscooperate.com
860-576-9506