IMAGINE! Social Success Framework

Social skills require competencies in both verbal and nonverbal areas of development; therefore, the first 3 categories of the IMAGINE framework are primarily verbal while the next 3 categories are primarily nonverbal and the last category is perhaps the most elusive of all – humor.

We use this framework to think about what might be driving negative behaviors seen during unsuccessful social interactions. We believe that all children want to have good friends and to be a good friend, but for some the social code is difficult to decipher alone. So, once we determine the specific areas of need using our IMAGINE Social Success Checklist, we then help them break the code by using the activities described in the Social Adventures app.

Initiating Interactions: During any given day, we are all initiating interactions with great frequency. Each of these moments requires an immediate understanding of the subtle rules associated it. Most of us know when to just say, “hi” and keep on going, when to take a moment to inquire about a friend’s well-being, when to wait to interrupt someone because it is obvious they are preoccupied. For children, these interactions require them to know how to enter ongoing play, how to start a conversation with a peer vs a teacher, and how to share an idea successfully.

Maintaining Interactions: Beyond knowing how to successfully initiate an interaction, we also need to be able to keep that interaction going. We must know how much information to share with a given peer, to give that person their turn, and to maintain this reciprocal interaction for an appropriate length of time. If someone initiates an interaction with us, we need to know that we must respond to them and what type of response is appropriate. These responses can range from a simple nod to enthusiastic agreement to knowing when to ask more information in a compassionate manner.

Advocating and resolving conflict: Even when we are pretty good at iniating and keeping an interaction going, there are times when conflict arises and knowing how to manage those moments requires a different set of skills entirely. Childhood by its very nature is fraught with conflict, so these moments come even more frequently for children. Knowing how to disagree with a peer’s idea, when to be flexible, when to self-advocate and how to arrive at a compromise are all skills that are critical to social success.

Getting and staying regulated: While being social seems to be largely a verbal enterprise, the nonverbal skills inherent in any interaction are equally important. Understanding when, where, and how to keep one’s body under control does not come naturally to kids who can go from 0 – 60 with little hope of returning. Finding that middle ground for remaining attentive without responding to every environmental stimulus is a challenge. Understanding that it’s OK to be “wild and crazy” on the playground but NOT in the classroom with teachers or at the dinner table with the family is a key to happy social interactions.

Interpreting non-verbal communication: Kids can talk and listen but do they realize how much they are communicating through body language and tone of voice? We don’t pay attention to this important aspect of communication because we as adults attend to non-verbal messages without thinking. When simple hand gestures are confusing or a child’s tone of voice sounds angry, so much is misunderstood! Learning how to both interpret and use non-verbal means of communication can decrease anxiety in social situations.

Negotiating space: What can we do when kids mean well and are simply having a good time but invade the personal space of other children, turning them away in the process? It is so painful to see those sad little faces when they don’t mean to hurt or offend! Learning to manage their bodies in space and how to adjust for the specific environment is critical to making and maintaining friends.

Experiencing Humor: And then there is humor. Humor is so much more than just telling or understanding a joke. It is also more than recognizing and interpreting idioms. From recognizing when a friend is “trash talking” rather than being “mean” to knowing when enough is enough, humor is particularly difficult for children who struggle with any or all of the above.