Social Skills Unscripted
By Steph West, Starfish Social Club
Social Skills UnscriptedSep 25, 2023
Why our kids can be 'prickly' sometimes
You know those times when your neurodivergent kiddo is being defiant, or argumentative, or disruptive? Maybe disrespectful, or even dramatic? What's up with that??
In this week's episode, I'm sharing multiple reasons why our kids can be 'prickly' sometimes. A lot of them are things you may have never thought about or understood.
And of course I'm also sharing what we can do to help when our kiddos are in this space!
Here's a clip from this episode:
I think there's a lot of people who just like being a little bit different. There's a big distinction between when that's a choice and when it's not a choice. Somebody with a physical disability is always going to be seen as different, even though they did not make that choice. Somebody with a speech impairment, there will always be seen as different, even though they did not make that choice. Somebody whose skin is a different color than the other people they're typically around, somebody who wears certain clothing because of their religion... So there are things about us that make us stand out, make us different in a crowd, that were not our explicit choice. Things like: having a slow processing speed, not understanding humor, having a hard time getting along in a group. Those things also make us feel different. And they are not things that we chose for ourselves. So one of the reasons that I notice that our kiddos can be prickly sometimes is when the things that make them feel different were not their choice, and they're causing hardships in their life.
The importance of adult relationships in our kids' lives with Darlene Meissner
My main focus at Starfish Social Club is our kids' relationships with other kids. This is, after all, a social club to teach and support neurodivergent kids in getting along with other kids.
But it's important to recognize that the main source of what our kids think and how they feel about relationships is US. The adults.
In this week's podcast/YouTube episode, Darlene Meissner and I are talking about this topic in depth. We are uncovering how our relationship with our kids affects all their future relationships, and why it's important for them to have relationships with adults who aren't us.
Here's a clip from this episode:
As a parent, the relationship you have with your child and the relationship you have with other people sets the stage for what your child thinks is a normal relationship. So you know, when I had a relationship with one parent where I always felt like I was wrong, I always felt like I was doing something wrong, I felt like everything was my fault, I ended up in a 10 year romantic relationship where I always felt like everything was my fault. And I always felt like I was wrong. But whereas someone else may say, 'Oh, I'm absolutely not staying in this relationship', to me, that's what a relationship was. So that was my experience and that's when it really became clear to me how much our dynamics growing up affect what we think we should be looking for as we get older.
How to get in touch with Darlene: https://DarleneMeissner.com
Stop asking your neurodivergent kid how their day was (and what to ask instead)
One of the most important pieces of advice I share with parents of neurodivergent kids to build connections with their kids and try their best to understand them. I realized I haven't talked much about HOW to do that.
Today's episode is all about this topic!
First, please stop asking your kid how their day was. In this episode, I explain why, AND I give you a great alternative that will not only give you more information than what you are probably getting now, but it will also help you form a deeper connection with your child.
I also talk about how to support our kids when they are struggling emotionally, ways to connect with kids who are resistant/reluctant/defiant, and why the things we choose to focus on could have a big impact on our kids' social futures.
Registration for my 8-week social skills program for autistic/ADHD kids is opening soon! Are you on the waiting list? https://www.starfishsocialclub.org/SC3-Academy
Paying attention to behavior across environments with Delton Cooper
When I teach my students about the concept of 'reputation', one of the things we talk about is that it's totally fine and normal to act differently in different contexts. We SHOULD act differently at family dinner than in the school cafeteria. It WOULD be a good idea to talk to the principal or our boss differently than we talk to our friends. There's a term for this: It's called 'codeswitching'.
For some of our kids, we sometimes WISH they would act differently in different contexts. We would love for them to be more aware of the concept of codeswitching.
But what about when a kiddo acts SO differently in another context that we are surprised? Or worried? Or even angry?
In this week's podcast/YouTube episode, Delton Cooper and I are talking about our childhood experiences with ADHD at home and at school. Both of us really struggled in one of these environments while we showed up very differently in the other.
We share why it's important to pay attention to how your child acts in different contexts, what that may mean regarding their mental health, and what we believe all kids need in order to be the best version of themselves.
Here's a clip from this episode:
Why is this kid determined to stay in trouble? Why is he determined to defy the simplest of instructions? Simplest of instructions. Just sit down and be quiet, I'm not going to do it. You know, "When you get done reading your book, close your book and, you know, quietly finish your..." I"m not gonna do it. I didn't want to do homework. You know, I didn't want to do... I didn't want to do anything that forced me to to... Comply? Comply. Perfect word. Even to this day, I have, I don't like complying. You know, that still follows me. Because the complying is just, to me and to other kids that have you know, these diagnoses, is that you're not allowing me to be who I am. I'm not a bad person. I'm not threatening you. I'm not disrupting your world at all. But all I want to do is just be who I am. And you're not allowing that. So we're all going to suffer for this. So that was my answer to school. Yeah, that's a really great way to put it. I hadn't really thought about that connection with compliance before.
*We do dive into some heavier topics related to mental health, so please be aware of that before you watch/listen.
Where to find Delton:
FB: Delton Cooper II
The importance of teaching neurodivergent kids how to self-advocate with Michelle Steiner
It's back to school season for those of us in the US!
That's why my guest this week is someone who works alongside our kids in the school system every day!
But first, a story.
A couple years ago, I saw a social media post from this dude who is a therapist and teaches social skills to ADHD boys. It said something like: Why would you trust a middle-aged woman to teach your teenage boy with ADHD social skills??
Now I know this post had nothing to do with me (I mean, I'm not even middle-aged!) but I actually found it humorous.
Here's this dude who is neurotypical, thinking he's in a better position to teach social skills to neurodivergent kids and teens than someone who has LIVED EXPERIENCE!
How many situations do you find yourself in where you think the best person to learn something (anything!) from is someone who has NO personal experience in that area?
A realtor who has never bought or sold their own house?
Someone who teaches people to make money with a side hustle, but has never had a side hustle?
Someone who teaches piano lessons, but doesn't know how to play the piano??
Alright, you get the idea. I'm just a girl who has ADHD standing in front of you wanting to help your child.
Is that how that quote goes??
My guest on the podcast this week is Michelle Steiner, a disability advocate, speaker, and a paraprofessional in a middle school who has a learning disability. In other words, she's another person out in the world teaching our kids because she gets it. She has been there, done that.
Here's a clip from the episode: A lot of times, we'll have parents that are advocating for their child, and that's definitely very important for a parent's voice. My parents didn't give up on me and they advocated for me until I could advocate for myself. But I think we really need to have kids beginning starting to advocate for themselves at an early age. A lot of these a lot of the students I work with, their disability is going to continue well on after adulthood, it's going to go with them for the rest of their lives. And I think the earlier we start getting them to be able to speak up for themselves, the more we're going to serve them, and better prepare them for their future.
PS. Did you know I also teach people how to start a social club in their community? Because, you know, I have 7 years of experience doing that! If this sounds like something you are interested in learning more about, you can join the waiting list at Start Your Own Club Waitlist (starfishsocialclub.org)
I'm glad you are here!
You can find Michelle at www.michellesmission.net
Why, when, and how to talk to your autistic/ADHD child about their diagnosis
This is an impromtu episode I recorded because this topic was heavy on my mind. I'm sharing why I think everyone deserves to know if they have a diagnosis, when we should tell our kids, and how we can do it in an affirming way.
Home and school IEP collaboration with Katie Ploss
It's back to school season here in the US!
I've been on both sides of the table in IEP meetings.
Regardless of your role in an IEP meeting, these things can get intense.
I was a special education teacher and behavior specialist for many years. I also spent a year as an assistant principal in a residential treatment center where I was the administrator who attended all the IEP meetings, about 20 each week.
In these roles, I was the so-called 'expert'. The child's teacher. The behavior guru. The one with the authority to make decisions.
Also, I spent some time as a foster parent to a kiddo with LOTS of needs.
In this role, I was in the awkward position of knowing my child's teacher was not very good at her job because I worked in the district and was in her classroom frequently supporting other students. Then there was the time I found out the school nurse had only been giving my child half his medication dosage. The report I filed led to her losing her job.
But here's the thing: We are all doing the best we can.
Parents are doing the best they can to raise their kids without being experts in neurodivergence or education most of the time.
Teachers are doing the best they can to teach and support their students without being an expert in each child.
Specialists are doing the best they can to support high caseloads of students, all with different needs and situations.
Administrators are doing the best they can to support their staff, whom they rely on, as well as the parents who drop their kids off at the front door every day, whom they are here to teach and protect.
In this week's podcast episode, Katie Ploss and I talk about ways to support home and school collaboration in the IEP process. Katie is a school psychologist who is passionate about supporting parents along the full developmental experience with their kids. We also discuss the best places and ways to ask questions and get accurate information when it comes to your child's education (HINT: It's not by posting in FB groups).
Here's a clip from this episode:
A lot of the acronyms and the big... all the paperwork and all of those things were put in place to protect, for procedural safeguard purposes, to protect children and parents and to ensure that students have access to education. So it's like a double-edged sword, it's like all of this stuff is what's legally protecting your child, and giving them, providing that access to them. But on the other side of it, it is, it's a bear, it's there's so much to sift through. IEPs are like 20, 30 pages long. And then if you have your child evaluated, if it's a three-year or an initial IEP, you know, you have maybe multiple specialist reports that you're sifting through, it is insane. And, you know, a lot of schools just don't have the resources, the time, the parent doesn't have the resources or the capability, capacity to sit and go through all of it. And it's just really overwhelming. So, you know, it's knowing like, again, that communication and how to... what questions to ask, how to ask them, when to ask them. And it's up to us on our end to make sure that we're communicating the information in a way that's digestible.
And if you're looking for some support as we kick of the new school year, my 1/1 sessions can be used to discuss your child's IEP or attend a meeting with your child's school staff via Zoom. Just send an email to hello@StarfishSocialClub.org if that sounds like something that would be helpful for you.
How to find Katie: www.beyoucmty.com, and 'beyoucmty' on social media.
Supporting struggling learners with Jessica Bradley
It's back to school season for those of us in the US!
I don't think it's a secret that I'm not a huge fan of traditional education systems. From bell schedules to having to ask to go to the restroom to the overfocus on memorization, I think these structures and expectations promote compliance and conformity. The fact that I'm not a huge fan of those things isn't a secret for sure!
While a lot of our neurodivergent kids experience social anxiety, school anxiety is another factor that can negatively affect students both academically and socially.
My guest this week is Jessica Bradley, a former school teacher who now supports struggling learners by giving them the academic and emotional support they need to be more successful.
Here's a clip from this week's episode:
And that is why I think, in my program, students and parents tell us, you've only met with them once, and they're doing so much better. And I'm like, Well, I didn't teach them anything in an hour that's going to fix our academic problem. But I did talk to them and reduce their stress, which allowed them to go to that math class, and pay attention. So now they're getting support from me. But they're also able to finally intake information in class because I've reduced their stress level so much. And so that's such a big part. And you know, there's so much research too about how the two are intertwined, right? If we're doing well in school, we have great peer relationships, but the opposite has been researched and the opposite is true: If we have great peer relationships, we do great in school. So it's this very codependent relationship, that we have to continue as parents and a support person, people and all that we have to continue to foster both sides. Because they work together.
Where to find Jessica: www.the-learning-room.com
Strategies to create healthier ADHD brains with Bobbi Westbrook
I have never thought of myself as someone who interrupts a lot. And then I listened to the recording of this week's podcast episode. Yikes!
In my defense, I interrupted so much because I related so strongly to what my guest was sharing, and because I had so much personal experience to contribute to the discussion! Excuses and interruptions aside, it is a great episode.
In this week's podcast episode with Bobbi Westbrook, we are talking about strategies to create healthier ADHD brains.
A lot of the things Bobbi shares I just learned and started applying in the last few years. Mostly because I just received my ADHD diagnosis in 2021. But I can only imagine how much it would have benefitted younger me to have these practices established when I was a kid.
In addition to what Bobbi shares, I also talk about my theory on why people with ADHD are more likely to also have anxiety, and why the concept of 'moderation' is lost on ADHD brains.
Here's a soundbite from the episode:
Helping give our child an environment that helps their brain function the best, and then helping parents respond to their kids empathetically and understand how their brains are working just a little bit differently will help everybody just cooperate more together in life and hopefully bring a lot more peace into the home. And then, by the time those kids reach adolescence and teenage years, they have so many coping mechanisms and skills and tools that they can use to really thrive as they get more responsibility, and they have more privileges like phones and things like that. A story that I hear constantly with teenagers is: “I’m constantly taking their phone away to try to get them to do their homework and I’m constantly grounding them because they didn’t do x,y,z when I asked them to.” And I’m like, man, if we can head that off when they’re 5, 6, 7 years old and get you all’s relationship established so that you can understand each other and be on the same page, you don’t have to do any of that. They are able to flow into young adulthood with a lot more confidence, and with the parent having a lot more confidence in them.
Check out this week's episode with Bobbi for strategies on how to support your kiddo's (or your own) ADHD brain.
Making the Invisible Visible with Carrie Bonnett
In this week's podcast episode with Carrie Bonnett, we talk about the importance of self-advocacy, giving everything a home, and making the invisible visible.
To Carrie, this relates to executive functioning tasks. To me, this relates to helping my students identify and recognize how the invisible social world really works.
I had two conversations with new students this week that really highlighted the importance of making the invisible visible:
The first conversation was with a middle school student who came to see me for 1/1 support. He did not want to be there, and the first thing he said when I greeted him was, "I'm just waiting for this to be over."
I am always up for a challenge, so I dove right in.
By the end of our session, he had identified that it wasn't his unique hobby that was causing other kids to pick on him, it was his reputation. (Note: while someone's reputation is never a justifiable excuse for them to be picked on, it is at least an explanation for why it's happening.)
This kiddo also figured out what he was doing that was giving him a reputation for being annoying. He has been going out of his way to try to hide his amazing hobby, thinking it would cause kids to stop picking on him. I helped him see the invisible truth behind the treatment and now he's much more open to receiving feedback regarding how he interacts with other kids.
The second conversation was with an elementary student who is joining me via Zoom in a couple of weeks for my group program. At first, he refused to talk to me. When his mom would try to tell me what was going on, he would yell and have a big reaction. At one point she said he was melting down in the background.
By the end of our session, he was telling me that his two goals in life were to make friends and to improve his rock climbing. He was also showing me some of the very creative pictures he has created.
Why the significant change? He has social anxiety and thinks other kids don't like him. I explained to him the number one way he could figure out if other kids like him and want to play with him, which reinforced that kids like him! I made one invisible thing more visible to him, and it completely changed his perception of himself and of our conversation.
I encourage you to check out this week's episode with Carrie for strategies on helping your kiddo (or you!) make the invisible visible, and lots of other helpful solutions for organizing our brains and our homes.
Here's a soundbite from the episode:
So what executive function skills are are the skills, the brain skills that help us get stuff done. That's how I like to describe it, like the short version. And I often like to say that the key to being successful at this thing called 'executive function’ is to make the invisible visible. So there is so much in a student's life, or an adult’s, that is invisible, right? Like expectations are invisible. Time is invisible. Yes. Months, years, invisible. All this stuff. Chores, invisible. And so one of the things that I just was talking to this high school student about just moments ago was this idea of just keeping it in your face.
You can find Carrie at www.CarrieBonnett.com
Breaking things down, creating routines, and the power of passion with Chris Fugelsang
This week's podcast features my first guest, Chris Fugelsang. Chris is an executive functioning coach, so I figured he would be a perfect person to talk to since that's what I've been talking about all summer!
Here's a soundbite from the episode:
In my early days of teaching, I would get like, five, six kids pulled out of a class and I would have to help them manage school. And they really were weak in those areas. Intellectually they were mostly above or average intelligence, sometimes exceptionally above average. But what I found out was that it wasn't the content that they struggled with, it was these peripheral things around learning, like planning and organizing and sustained attention and study skills and impulsivity and all these other things that they struggled with. But what I was doing as an early teacher was just putting out fires and helping them do work and being a tutor showing them how to get their work done so that they can get the grade. But I wasn't really helping them. I didn't feel as though I was helping. I've almost felt like I was doing them a disservice because they were getting, they were passing the class, but they weren't necessarily learning the skills. And that's kind of what this work is all about is learning the fundamental skills.
This clip really stands out to me, because it highlights that it's not the SETTING that supports our kids in their learning, it's TEACHING THE SKILLS.
Kids don't learn how to study or complete their assignments by being in mainstream classes, and they don't learn how to make friends by being around other kids. If either of these were the case, our kids would function just like everyone else by now.
But they obviously don't.
The biggest misconception about our program here at Starfish Social Club is that the benefit is in either the group, or the in-person service.
It's not in either of those.
I'm currently working with a 21-year-old 1/1. He emailed me a bulleted list of what he would like to work on. We have had some amazing conversations and he's recognizing that he's trying to use 'traditional' social skills, which are actually making him seem more awkward. He's not part of one of my groups, and he lives on the other side of the country. It's not the group or the location that leads to social growth.
Sometimes the group actually causes things to be MORE challenging. If you didn't see the video I posted Thursday about our challenging day at summer camp, you can watch it here.
We didn't turn things around because the kids were with me in person. We did it because of the way I interact with the students, the relationship we have, and the skills they have learned in the program.
If I just stuck all my students in a room together so that they would gain social skills, it would most likely end up in chaos and arguments and crying. It's not the environment. that leads to growth. It's the acquisition of skills.
Outline: 10:15 - The relationship between discipline, motivation, and passion 16:17 - Breaking tasks down in ways that work for our brains 22:32 - Using natural rewards and consequences 33:42 - The role of accountability 35:48 - The importance of routines How to contact Chris: www.exceptionalpath.com email@example.com
Executive FUNctioning summer: Games!
This is the final episode in our executive functioning series. This episode includes 10 activities you can do with your kids involving games to improve their executive functioning skills. We spend half our time at Starfish Social Club playing games!
Segment from this episode:
Next up is how I incorporate executive functioning skills into games. Clearly games in and of themselves work on executive functioning skills. There's not a game out there that does not work on executive functioning skills just by the fact that it's a game.
There are extra things I do during game time that kick things up a notch. Sometimes a little, sometimes a whole lot!
Executive FUNctioning summer: Working memory
This episode focuses on working memory games to improve our kids' working memory. A lot of these are oral games that can be done anywhere. You do them at the dinner table or in the car, to start or end your day... wherever and whenever!
I'll see you next week for our last set of activities: games!
Executive FUNctioning summer: Building activites
This episode includes 10 building activities you can do with your kids or students to help improve their executive functioning skills. You can use any materials for this. We typically use Legos, but you can use magnetic tiles, blocks, or anything else your kids enjoy.
Next week I have 10 working memory activities for you!
Executive FUNctioning summer: Writing and drawing
This episode is all about ways to improve kids' executive functioning skills using writing and drawing activities. Even if your kiddo is not a strong writer or doesn't enjoy writing, there are still plenty of activities on this list that they can do!
3:21: Support for kids who don't like to write
6:02 - Drawing activities
14:54 - Writing activites
Next week I have 10 building activities for you!
Putting the FUN in Executive FUNctioning this summer!
For the next several weeks, we are focusing on the concept of executive functioning. If you've been in the autism/ADHD/learning disabilities world for any amount of time, this term is probably really familiar to you. It can be defined in a lot of different ways, and it can be quite confusing. Today I'm talking about:
3:02: What is executive functioning?
17:28: Summary and what's coming up next!
Segment from this episode:
Kids in class see other kids' science fair projects, book reports, that six month oral history report, whatever it may be. They see other kids that seems to be on top of this management stuff. And their desk, meanwhile, is exploding. And they did theirs the night before. And it's not typed, it's handwritten, and they don't even have all the pages together. And they didn't turn in their homework yesterday.
Kids constantly late to school because they aren't able to manage their time and attention in the morning to get up and get out the door. And there's arguing and yelling and all kinds of stuff happening at home in the morning because of their inability to regulate their time and their attention and to prioritize things.
When direct instruction, feedback, and community all come together
The three things we've talked about over the last three weeks, and how they all come together to create our unique program and system at Starfish Social Club. The direct instruction through our curriculum, the feedback our students receive, and the community that is created amongst the students here. They are all three vital to the success of our students, and what happens if one or even two of these elements are missing in the program that students may be in now outside of Starfish Social Club.
In this episode:
3:30 - The potential consequences for students if their program has direct, explicit instruction and feedback, but no sense of community with other kids
12:12 - The potential consequences for students if their program has feedback and connection to other kids, but no explicit instruction
24:50 - The potential consequences for students if their program has direct, explicit instruction and connection to other kids, but no feedback
Segment from this episode:
One of the things that can happen if you think about a program that has direct, explicit instruction and it's got a feedback component to it, but it does not have the community amongst the people in the program (this may be some interventions that happen in school, this very well could be one on one interventions, because it's hard to have a sense of community if a kiddo is in an intervention by themselves), one of the things that comes out of a program that's structured in that way without the sense of community amongst the other kids, is our kids start to feel like there's something wrong with them. That they are receiving this therapy or this intervention or this service or this pullout, because there's something wrong with them. They feel isolated. It definitely comes from more of a deficit-type model. 'Why don't other kids go to this?' I've heard that when I was in the classroom and I had kids that would go to speech therapy: 'Why don't other kids from my class go to this?'
Making sure all our students know they belong at Starfish Social Club
All about the connection our students have with each other at Starfish Social Club! We are talking about what makes the experience here so unique, some of the authentic conversations we have had with students around autism and uniqueness, and why we do not intentionally separate our students by age or by "ability".
In this episode: 2:22 - the types of students who are in our program 3:38 - why we don't have neurotypical kids in the program 15:13 - the really important conversations we have with our students 35:03 - how we group our students (and why it's not by age or ability) 53:17 - a deeper conversation regarding 'ability' Segment from this episode: So we had a conversation about how the two of them are different. They don't have the same ability. And he said, "Well, she's just, like, ADHD or something, right? And I said, "No, she's autistic just like you are." And there was this loooong moment of silence. And it was so interesting. I could literally see, as they say, the wheels turning. And then he said, "You know, my whole life, adults have taught me to get along with all the normal kids. But no one has ever taught me to get along with other kids like me."
What my 2-star podcast review has to do with our kids
In this episode, we're talking about the SECOND most important concept in our program at Starfish Social Club: Helpful social feedback!
None of us are able to make progress if we aren't getting helpful feedback from important people in our lives! Without feedback, we aren't able to address the things that people may find annoying, frustrating, selfish, etc. about us! At Starfish Social Club, we teach all of our students to give each other social feedback. When our kiddos do things that may be socially awkward, inappropriate, or unexpected, other kids tend to have two responses: They give our kids NO feedback, or they give NEGATIVE feedback. Neither of those helps our kids understand what they said or did that is causing their reputation to be what it is.
We walk through how we teach our kids to give and receive feedback, and why it's so important.
The ONE thing that determines whether or not our autistic and ADHD kids have friends
The number one factor that has to do with whether other kids want to be around our neurodivergent kids, or not! This determines whether our kids have other kids who like them, avoid them, or even go out of their way to be unkind. This one thing is what our entire program at Starfish Social Club is based on.
The best thing about this concept is that once our students are aware of this one thing, they can change it if they choose to do so!
The power of natural social consequences, an update on some of our anxious kids, and teaching our students how to change the topic
Our most effective strategy for helping our students understand the natural, social consequences of the choices they make. There are going to be people who hear it and maybe think they can't imagine implementing this strategy or feel surprised that it's successful. It may feel a little extreme. From my neurodivergent perspective, it is necessary in order for our autistic and ADHD kids to build their level of social awareness. It's also just as beneficial for all the other students who are in the group who witness us using this strategy.
Also an update on two of our socially anxious kiddos, and how we teach kids to change the topic in a conversation.
How we support our students as a group in the community
We are talking all about our cohorts, which are groups of similar-aged students who meet every other week. One week they plan an outing and the other week we go do it out in the community! We work on ALL the executive functioning skills in the context of our cohort groups!
How everyone can get what they want in the group, expected responses to 'How are you?', the missing component when it comes to making different choices, and 'reading the room'
Thinking about others in the context of a group, why we don't settle anything by voting (and what we do instead), the expected response when an acquaintance asks, "How are you?", the missing component when it comes to our kids being willing to make different choices, and teaching the concept of 'reading the room'.
Anxiety about joining the group, letting kids make their own path, being accountable for our actions
This episode focuses on how we support kids who experience anxiety about joining the group or being here at Starfish Social Club. Also a sidenote about the importance of letting our kids do things in the ways that work best for them, and a story about our kids taking accountability and making something better.
The classroom management strategies we use in our social groups
How we do classroom management with our autistic and ADHD students WITHOUT using threats or punishment, including lessons getting derailed, side conversations, and students camping out in the restroom.
Strategies for solving problems, helping students self-advocate, why we don't choose groups for kids
Exploring the methods and strategies we use to help our autistic and ADHD kids learn to solve problems, discussing situations where kids may do things that are unfair to others, and how our students adapt no matter what group they are in or who they are with.
Allowing kids to solve their own problems, and a student stepping in as a peer helper on his own
Students solving a months-old conflict on their own (including how one of our more passive students stood up for herself), a student realizing he can be a leader and help other students, and a student putting in the work to change his reputation.
The appropriateness of cursing, code switching, and the challenge with using 'kid' language
We are talking about teaching our neurodivergent students the difference between cursing at a situation vs. a person, what 'code switching' is and how we as teachers and parents may be making things more difficult for our kids, and how using 'kid' terminology may cause our kid to be the one who stands out (and not in a good way).
Intelligence vs. academic ability, challenges with being 'smart', and overcoming our old reputation
We are talking about why school tends to be challenging for our neurodivergent kids, some of the pitfalls of having a reputation for being smart, and the only way to overcome our old reputation.
Creating an emotionally safe environment for kids to participate, when kids wait to be invited to play, and navigating pretend play
How we work with our students if they don't remember something or aren't paying attention, how we encourage an environment where all our kids feel safe to participate and engage, how we support our kids who wait to be invited to play, and navigating pretend play.
Interviewing Lisa from Spectrum Social Club
I'm interviewing Lisa Mortensen, who is becoming licensed to teach our curriculum and is opening her own social club in Ohio this summer! Check it out at www.SpectrumSocial.org. We talk about her incredible neurodivergent family, her path to starting her own club, and her goals for the future of her students (and her own kids).
Students getting upset with each other, not wanting to participate, and social context
In this episode, I'm talking about students sharing examples of using what they have learned at Starfish Social Club, the difference between laughing at someone vs. something, how we handle kids getting upset with each other, what we do when kids don't want to participate, and talking about the social context.
Complaining, communication challenges, and kids supporting each other
In this episode we are talking about the strategies we use to help our students recognize they are complaining (and what to do instead), suggestions for kids with communication challenges, and how we support our autistic and ADHD kids as they support each other.
Social feedback, natural social consequences, and social anxiety
Ramiro and I are talking about the importance of teaching our autistic and ADHD students how to give and receive social feedback, what the most important natural social consequence is, and how we support kids with social anxiety.
Social skills can't be 'wrong', dealing with 'bad' kids, and building social awareness
Ramiro and I are talking about the goings-on in less than 2 hours with our students last week! We talk about why there's no such thing as doing things wrong when it comes to social skills, 'bad' kids, discussions about being popular vs. being kind, and a whole lot about asking questions to build our students' social awareness!
How it's going
While what I teach is the same for all our kids, HOW I teach it is different! I approach, respond to, and manipulate situations differently. I ask different questions. I phrase things differently. I reframe certain ideas or concepts. I create scenarios accordingly. It's all part of the magic around here!
What do you believe about your child?
I’m going to challenge us to analyze our thoughts and beliefs about our autistic/ADHD kids, and see if there are some beliefs that need to go the way of the leaves this fall.
How it started
I’m going to be a bit cliché and share my ‘how it started/how it’s going’ journey with you. Where I am in Starfish Social Club today is absolutely not where I was many years ago when I started my special education journey. I bet my ‘how it started’ story will be very relatable!
How NOT to be like me
For a while now (probably over a year) I’ve been feeling like what we do at Starfish Social Club isn’t enough. If you don’t know, I teach autistic and ADHD kids and teens how to make friends. That part of it is AMAZING. I’m so proud and excited for my students and the progress and growth they make, the connections they make with other kids, the challenges we work through on a weekly basis… That part of it is, hands down, AMAZING!
What I don’t do very well is teach other adults how to best support our kids. Which means the skills and strategies my students are learning probably don’t make it too far past our parking lot.
I have a new plan, and a personal reason why it's so important to me.
It's about time
Does your child struggle with time management? Do they get overwhelmed when things need to get done? Do they spend more time resisting or refusing than actually doing the thing? Do they have a reputation for procrastinating, or for never being on time?
If your child is autistic or has ADHD, you probably relate to at least one of these. Time management is one of the big challenges for people with executive functioning deficits, which is a core part of autism and ADHD.
Today we’re talking about why time management is a struggle for so many of our autistic and ADHD kids, and how we can help them develop this skill.
The concept of social rules
What happens when we teach neurodivergent kids social rules? They are likely to become the kids who either get ignored by other kids, or who have a reputation for being annoying. Why is that? How come when we try so hard to help our kids make friends, we sometimes end up sabotaging them instead?
There really is no such thing as a social rule. There are no black and white situations when it comes to interacting with other people. When we pretend like there are, we do our kids a major disservice. We create social robots who ask rote questions on autopilot, like ‘What’s your name?’ and ‘What are you doing?’ and ‘How are you?’. Let’s talk about how to move away from social rules, especially for our autistic and ADHD kids who tend to be very rule-focused.
Autism, ADHD, and Apologies
Does your kiddo refuse to apologize for things, even when there is evidence of the crime? Or do they apologize for everything?? Why is the concept of apologizing difficult for autistic and ADHD kids? I'm going to share some of the reasons, as well as some ways we may be making it worse, and how to focus on what really matters! August 25th is 'Kiss and Make Up Day!' What a great time to talk about apologizing!
Neurodivergent kids and humor: Why is it hard and how can we help?
August 16 is 'Tell a Joke Day'! In this episode, I'm talking all about how our neurodivergent kiddos who struggle with social awareness may struggle with humor. Humor can be challenging for them to understand, and challenging for them to share. Let's talk about why, and how we can help!
How to use praise for maximum effectiveness (pt. 2)
This episode is a follow-up to episode 6. In episode 6, I talked about how the way we have learned to praise our neurodivergent kids is actually pretty flawed. It can have long-lasting consequences in terms of their self-esteem, relationships, employment, general happiness... even though we're doing what we think is best.
In this episode, I'm sharing the ways to praise our kids that actually provide them with healthy self-esteem, boundaries, self awareness... all the things we really want for our kids so they can have happy, bright futures!
When praise hurts more than helps (pt. 1)
Welcome to episode six of Social Skills is Canceled. This episode is all about how we praise and reinforce our neurodivergent kids. It lays the foundation for the challenges that may arise with the way we praise our kids, and episode seven will be about what to focus on instead.
The importance of summer schedules
This episode is all about the concept of summer schedules for our neurodivergent students. Your child needs a summer schedule, even if you don't think they do! Most importantly, this episode journeys through the STARFISH acronym to provide some different ways to use your child's summer schedule to help them be more flexible, independent, solution-seeking, all of the things that are part of our STARFISH acronym. A summer schedule that you create WITH your child can help them be more of ALL of the things that we work on at Starfish Social Club!
Why I Skipped Autism Awareness Month
Autism Awareness Month has just come to an end. This episode is all about why I don't talk about Autism Awareness Month, and why I think it's actually a disservice to our kiddos.
How to help our neurodivergent kids find friends
In this episode, I’m talking about how to find the best source of friends for your neurodivergent kiddo, as well as outlining the challenges with traditional friendship matchmaking strategies used in school and at home.
The REAL reason your child struggles to make friends
This episode is all about what’s really getting in the way of your child or teen making and keeping friends. I’m going to introduce you to the STARFISH scale so we can get a sense of your child’s level of awareness. If you haven’t already done so, you can access a free replay of the workshop I did in April on this topic! It's on our website at www.StarfishSocialClub.org.
Social Skills is Canceled
This episode is all about how and why I went from being a go-to social skills expert to not teaching social skills at all! Now I focus on teaching our kids the things that REALLY matter when it comes to making friends, and I’m on a mission to help others do the same!