Friday, June 02, 2017

101 Ways To Teach Social Skills - Neurodiversity Comments (Activities 77 - 101)

This is the fifth and final part of my review of 101 Ways to Teach Social Skills.

Section 7: Standing Up For Yourself

Activity 77 focuses on feeling good about yourself. This activity looks great!

Activity 78 is about having a positive attitude. This looks mostly good, except for the claim that other kids will like them better if they have a positive attitude. This could easily lead to self-blame if the kid is being bullied and can't maintain a positive attitude - even if the bullying came first.

Activities 79 - 80 are about sticking up for yourself and patting yourself on the back. These activities both look great!

Activity 81 focuses on being physically attacked. This activity has good advice, but it's vital that adults follow up appropriately when a child reports being attacked. If the child tells you that they reported an act of violence and didn't get an appropriate response, discuss the issue with their parents. If it's a chronic problem, the parents may need to take the issue to a supervisor, contact the police (especially if the perpetrator is over 12, as they can be charged with assault), or remove the child from the environment.

Activity 82 focuses on being bullied. This one is pretty poor advice. Ignoring bullies doesn't work, especially when you outright tell the bully you're ignoring them. Bullies will just escalate if ignored, until the child can't ignore them. Avoiding a bully is usually impossible if the bully attends the same school as the victim. And the discussion question of "why do you think you (or the child) were chosen as the victim?" sends serious warning bells. Never, ever suggest to a child that their personal traits caused them to be bullied. While having poor social skills can make them a more attractive target, the bully is ultimately responsible for their own actions. It's never the victim's fault that they got bullied, any more than it's a rape victim's fault that they got raped.

Activity 83 is about dealing with teasing. This activity is absolutely terrible. It doesn't actually give any advice on how to distinguish friendly teasing from verbal bullying. Plus, the advice they give for verbal bullying is terrible. They repeat the advice to ignore it, and also suggest saying 'so?' and having a sense of humor, which don't work either. The only piece of good advice is to tell an adult.

The surest way to distinguish friendly teasing from verbal bullying is to use an "I statement" to say how what they said made you feel, and ask them if that's what they intended. If the teasing is friendly, they'll probably apologize and clarify their intentions. If they're bullying, they'll probably either mock you for being upset or tell you it was no big deal in an aggressive tone without apologizing.

Activities 84 - 85 cover coping with stress, dealing with group pressure (peer pressure). These activities all look pretty good.

Activity 86 is about learning to say no. It's pretty good, but I have a problem with the suggestion to tell people why you're saying no. That's a good idea sometimes, but you don't owe people an explanation if you don't feel comfortable telling them.

Activity 87 is about releasing anger safely. Most of their suggestions look good, but hitting a pillow isn't a good idea. Research has found that aggressing against an object when you're angry just makes you angrier, and more likely to take out your anger on someone else. Talking about it, drawing a picture, exercising, counting slowly to 10 and breathing deeply are all much better ideas. Exercising in particular releases the pent-up energy without role-playing aggression.

Activities 88 - 89 discuss rights and responsibilities and being assertive. These activities both look good.

Section 8: Managing Conflict

The introduction touches on the idea of 'natural leaders', claiming they are kids who manage conflict better. In my experience, though, the kids I knew who were considered 'natural leaders' were manipulative social bullies, who charmed adults while being a menace to other children. Just because a child is a leader in their peer group doesn't mean they show positive social interaction patterns.

Activities 90 - 91 discuss what conflict is and what internal conflicts are. These activities both look good.

Activity 92 teaches children that both parties are responsible for a conflict. This message concerns me, because bullies often disguise their bullying as a mutual conflict, when really it's entirely one-sided. Care should be taken to acknowledge that sometimes people attack you for no reason at all, and that's not a conflict - that's bullying.

Activity 93 teaches children how to apologize. This activity looks good, but you should also address unnecessary or excessive apologies, which can be a result of low self-esteem.

Activity 94 talks about knowing whether you should resolve a conflict right away or wait until people are prepared to handle the discussion. This is a good idea, but some kids might have difficulty waiting if the conflict is very upsetting to them. It's a good idea to discuss coping strategies if that's an issue for any of the kids.

Activities 95 - 99 talk about resolving conflicts calmly, compromising, finding win-win solutions, negotiating and peer mediation. These activities all look great.

Activity 100 discusses fair fighting, attacking problems rather than people. This looks great, but you should discuss what to do if their opponent doesn't follow these rules. You could set a verbal boundary and refuse to discuss the issue until they agree to follow the rules of fair fighting. For example "I will not tolerate name calling. If you can discuss this without calling me names, I will discuss this issue further." If they don't listen to the boundary, use the broken record strategy or simply leave.

And lastly,

Activity 101 discusses positive and negative outcomes from conflicts. This activity looks great.


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