Line Up!


Do you ever have kids that need… absolutely NEED… to be first in line ALL the time?  Our little group of five boys, ages 5 and 6, literally fight, push and shove their ways to the top of the line each week during transitions.  We have tried calling the boys by name to be first, having them choose numbers, rolling dice, choosing a student of the day, lining up in alphabetical order, picking the most attentive, placing spots on the floor for spatial boundaries, discussing the situation, reading books illustrating why they can’t always be first, role playing, reasoning with them, and so on for weeks.  Yet, when they don’t end up in the front of the line, we hear,  “But I WANT TO BE FIRST!” followed by multiple meltdowns.

We decided to try a My School Day CD by Social Skills Builder  as a new approach since we, like most therapists, never give up!  This amazing tool includes over 350 videos divided into 4 levels to teach and reinforce important social school rules.  The videos address basic social skills that aren’t typically covered by the CORE curriculum but are foundational to all learning.  Managing transitions, lunchtime behavior, bullying, and yes… lining up are some of the situations covered on the CD!  The video clips are short and use real, live kids of all ages.  Questions are posed about each video clip such as, “Where should the girl stand in line?” and “How do her friends feel about her?” and become more sophisticated requiring more skill in inferencing as the levels increase.

Our boys watched the video clip and loved answering the questions.  We were able to cover 2 levels in one sitting and they enjoyed being “detectives” to answer additional questions.  We then had the boys line up the “right way” and make observations much like they did for the videos.  Did they leave enough space between each other?  How did they feel about NOT being first?  How did everyone feel?  Was there any crying?  We also had the kids line up the “wrong way” and discussed how their bodies felt in this high emotion situation – hearts were racing, kids were pushing and yelling, muscles were tight, and everyone felt angry and sad.  We showed them how much longer it took to get the line together in this way, which meant less time having fun.  Finally, we video-taped our group of kids lining up correctly and discussed how much happier they were than when they fight to be first!

We are thrilled with this product and are looking forward to many more opportunities to explore and use this valuable teaching tool.  We understand this CD is now an iOS app and we can’t wait to try that as well.  Stay tuned for more!


Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L


Bumper Crashers!

Just about every teacher, parent, and therapist I know (and that’s a LOT) have commented on kids who lean on others, talk too close, crash into other kids, and touch things that don’t belong to them. They invade spatial boundaries without meaning to and alienate others so fast they don’t know what happened! Funny … alienate has the word “alien” in it and our little bumpers and crashers are often treated as such.

The sad thing is, the kids don’t mean to be intrusive; and are doing the best they can. Games to emphasize spatial awareness can be helpful in teaching both the cognitive and physical aspects of closeness. See how close the kids can walk to a wall without touching it. Have them move around the room without touching one another until the music stops and have them notice how close they are. Play games in which all the kids need to end up in an area when the whistle is blown without pushing one another out of the small space. Have kids move on a chalk-drawn circle in one direction until a whistle is blown and they need to switch direction without touching each other.

You get the picture. When kids play games like these they are becoming more aware of their spatial boundaries mentally and physically. Hopefully when they invade someone’s space incidentally, a simple cue will do. They may even be able to adjust their distance without feeling reprimanded and will wear a smile on their faces remembering the fun games they played.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

image by: Leslie Parker

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.

stop go

Stop ‘n’ Go

What does it mean when we say kids have poor body awareness and how does it impact peer interactions? I think of it in two different but related ways; sort of an internal awareness and other-awareness. When kids struggle with body awareness internally we often talk about how they don’t know where their bodies are in space. They may bump into people and objects, trip a lot, get too close when talking, or lean on others unknowingly.

By “other-awareness” (which is definitely NOT a clinically accepted term) I am referring to an understanding of body language and facial expressions in other people as well as being able to communicate with one’s own bodies and expressions. Bumping into others and accidentally ruining a peer’s precious project has an obvious impact on social dynamics. Who wants to play with someone who gets in your space and wrecks your valuable creation? Poor comprehension of physical and facial expression can be equally damaging to friendship development. Misunderstanding body clues that say, “Stay away”, “I’m busy now”, “Follow me”, “Do you like it?” “I’m happy”, “I’m sad”, “Be quiet”, etc. makes life painfully confusing.

One of my favorite games to help kids tune into facial and body expressions is the “Stop ‘N’ Go” game. This completely non-verbal game requires that kids watch the leader and interpret her actions to be able to play. I find that once kids are tuned into even trying to interpret this language, their awareness increases significantly and carries over into other activities. Sometimes I wish we could have non-verbal hour every day in school and home. Hmmmmm … maybe even non-verbal half or whole days! Please share ideas and activities you have for helping kids with body awareness in social situations.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

image by: OliBac

This activity and others like it are available in our Social Adventures app.