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Copyright : Anna Omelchenko

Ganging up and Giggling

I run a little social dyad with two school-aged boys (almost middle schoolers). They both need a lot of support to appropriately initiate, and especially to maintain interactions. We use a variety of different strategies and approaches to help them reach their goals. Ask-Ask-Tell from our Social Adventures App, vocabulary and concepts from Social Thinking ™ (i.e. bubble thoughts, whopping topic change, etc.), lots of self-made visuals,  and even the Zones of Regulation to help when we get too silly. That is one of our biggest challenges…getting too silly and getting stuck.

Well recently I had to sit back and let us ride into the “yellow zone” and beyond…and hang out there.

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*Image from Zone of Regulation website

They were cracking themselves up while ganging up on the teacher (me). One of the boys set the alarm function on his phone to go off in the middle of our session. The other friend did the same on my iPad when we were using for a game. The had  coordinated this (clearly communicating and demonstrating great perspective taking by trying to be secretive…and failing:), and then couldn’t control themselves with laughter when the alarms went off. I tried to be “mad” at first, but then just sat back and watched them connect and enjoy themselves. What a typical social experience- ganging up on the teacher, acting “naughty,” and laughing together. It was important for me to appreciate the skills they were demonstrating: great communication, perspective taking, humor, and appropriate body language (looking at each other, matching their friend’s affect, appropriate proximity). It was awesome.

 

We now have to work on the concept that jokes are funny one time, sometimes twice…but usually not more. This has become something we want to do every week…but from my perspective, worth adding this new social goal.

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Chime Time

Self-regulation is a critical life competency that opens the door to learning, communication, and play. Without it, the brain and body are too disorganized to take in new and changing information. Yet, self-regulation is really hard to teach. We can talk about it. We can practice it. We can provide behavioral rewards. However, in order for children to understand that self-regulation is important, we must help them find ways to use it and notice the benefits themselves. Ah… there’s the challenge.

We have used a wonderful little Zenergy chime to help children develop this intrinsic understanding of self-regulation in 3 different and progressive ways with our young children in Social Adventures groups. Our youngest group of 4 year olds had no interest or ability to stay with the group or play with one another once they entered the gym area. They didn’t seem to understand that the point of the group was to learn to play with each other. “But I want to do what I want to do! I don’t want to do what he is doing!” Sometimes they were very polite about it. “No thanks, I’ll just play over here by myself.” As they ran raucously around the gym, voices intensified, bodies crashed into one another and hearts, heads and bodies were hurt.

We then instituted chime time. The kids were free to play but when they heard the chime, they needed to run to the mat, sit cross-legged and fold their hands in their laps. They were then asked to breathe slowly in and out as one of the group leaders slowly released one finger at a time from her fists to provide a visible example of the speed of breath.

 Extremity-upper-fingers

This gave the children enough time to breathe and become a little better regulated before heading back out to play. Over time, we began to lengthen the time and purpose of the chime break. We noted when their breathing slowing down. We emphasized deeper breaths and longer exhalations. We commented that our bodies feel so much better when we can slow our heart down by breathing deeply. We then began to add, “Now what will you play together when you go back?” and the kids started suggesting ideas to one another! If they happened to have been playing together before the chime rang, we helped them reflect on the fun they were having together. The kids in the group began saying, “It’s chime time!” when they felt things were getting out of control. And there it is: self-regulation! Next blog I’ll write about a second way we like to use the chime in our groups. We would love to hear your ideas about how you use the chime or other strategies for self-regulation.

If you’d like to purchase this chime, please click on over to our Amazon Store so they know who sent you.