The Magic of “Say a Name”

We have been running Social Adventure Groups for almost 20 years and although the kids in the program all come with unique challenges and strengths, most if not all of them, do seem to have one thing in common. They don’t gain the attention of their peers. As a result, chaos often ensues. During our talking time, it is not uncommon for 2 or more kiddos to launch into a story while staring at one of the adult leaders. They talk over each other and no one is really listening. If we are in the gym trying to work on a collaborative project; again, everyone starts doing their own thing, talking about their ideas without ever realizing that no one else is listening.

A Social Catch Phrase to the Rescue

So… what do we do? Well, we have found that using a simple catch phrase, “Say a Name” can be very helpful. But it isn’t so helpful unless we practice, practice, practice. In order to help the kids understand the power of gaining someone’s attention, we play a variety of games designed to focus on this one particular skill and use one of our Social Catch Phrase Cartoons to provide visual cueing.


Begin with Role Play

We have found that acting out social situations gone awry is a great way to introduce a concept. We are lucky to have two adults, so we tell the kids that they are going to go to a pretend movie. They are the directors so they say “action” to get things going, “cut” if something goes wrong and “print” if everything went smoothly. All kids LOVE being included in this way. Once the kids start the action, then here’s the script:

Actor 1: begin by looking distracted by something that draws attention away from Actor 2, such as drawing a picture.

Actor 2: looking at a pile of blocks says, “let’s build a fort with these”

Actor 1: keeps drawing the picture

Actor 2: now looks in the direction of Actor 1 says, “let’s build a fort – it will be so cool”

Actor 1: keeps drawing the picture

Actor 2: gets exasperated and stomps away

Hopefully, the kids have yelled “cut” by now because most of our kids recognize when something has gone wrong with other people, they just aren’t as good at monitoring their own behavior.

At this point, we ask the kids what would help. Sometimes they know, but more often they blame Actor 1 for not responding. At this point, we introduce our Social Catch Phrase Cartoon. We then act out the scene again, but this time Actor 2 says a name and all goes well.

Reinforcing Activities are Always Helpful

In order to reinforce the power of “Say a Name”, we play a pass the ball game. The kids are gathered in a circle or around a table. We explain that the rules of the game are to say a friend’s NAME and to WAIT until they look at them and show a READY BODY (hands out in front ready to catch the ball) before throwing the ball to that friend. This provides practice for saying a name while also working on waiting for a response before taking action.

We also play a version of Simon Says. Instead of saying “Simon says,” we say a friend’s name and then follow it up with an action. To keep it fun, the adults play too and sometimes we say, “EVERYBODY… clap your hands.” This activity works on perspective taking and regulation too because the kids need to ask their friends to do something that isn’t too difficult and isn’t too silly :)

Submitted by:  Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities like this.