Children with Asperger’s syndrome, high-functioning autism, ADHD and other social-emotional learning challenges find it difficult to regulate their behaviours in the moment. Good social skills can be described as considering other people’s perspective and adapting their own behavioural expression effectively in each social context.
To achieve these social targets, we have to decipher the hidden social rules in each social context and then subsequently regulate our physical presence, gaze, language, reactions and emotional expressions. It calls for highly flexible thinking. While some of the children can learn to do this somewhat effortlessly, many primary school students, even advanced or so-called “nearly conventional-thinking” students, may have some issues in identifying and applying these concepts that are at heart of social problem solving and social cooperation. If unaddressed early, this can hinder their personal and career development in later life. Flexible social thinking may only occur when children learn to incorporate social information and regulate their bodies and minds accordingly to show they can effectively adapt to others across a variety of social contexts.
During our initial sessions, we will cover major communication concepts. We will introduce the concept of having a thought and the concept of having a feeling. We will discuss how feelings and thoughts change. We will compare our thoughts with those of other people. We will look at the impact of our actions on other people’s feelings.
Next, we will introduce the concept of using your eyes to think better. We will connect the concept of thinking with following the object of thought through the gaze and discuss emotional expressions. We will consider a range of non-verbal gestures that communicate being attentive to the communication partner.
We will be connecting having individual thoughts with achieving a particular group behaviour and discuss the idea of having a group plan, ways of achieving a plan, changing elements of the plan, and we will look at the impact of our joint actions on each other’s feelings.
During the next part of the curriculum, we will start working with an advanced level of executive functioning to encompass group collaboration and social problem solving, while building on the core social concepts introduced during the previous part of the programme. Children’s social-emotional development will be enriched with the new social concepts of unexpected -vs expected- behaviour patterns, making smart social guesses, having stuck -vs flexible-thinking, looking at the size of the reaction-compared to the size of the problem-and sharing imagination.
During this stage, students will start deciphering the social cues, begin to share space, interact more flexibly, and regulate emotions more effectively. Social executive functioning is difficult for children with social-emotional learning challenges. They will need to learn to survey a social situation, comprehending group behaviour, considering other people’s perspectives, ideas and motives, start thinking flexibility and negotiate turns or social roles, as well as self-regulate to keep behaviours and emotions under control when a problem arises. This part of the social-emotional curriculum decodes these social concepts into smaller, teachable segments that children can understand, and presents them in an organised platform from which children can learn in a step-by-step manner.
Verbal and able neurodiverse children play and socially engage with different levels of social awareness, perspective taking and social problem-solving abilities. Through the Group Collaboration concepts, we teach young children how to take the social abilities they learn through the engaging storybooks and social-emotional curriculum units and map them to the broader classroom, home, playground, and community interactions. We will discuss the five-level play scale and its related observation forms and tools. By looking at the child’s baseline play level, we create various interactive play sessions where kids will learn to negotiate the more complex social concepts included in the Socially Smart programme.
Social FindOuters and Social SuperHeroes curriculum provides a fun forum in which they can look at their social-emotional challenges and identify ways to adapt their thoughts and related behaviours in different settings. Depicting social challenges as comic book characters enables children to learn about their behaviour strategies in a non-threatening way, while the positive socially flexible superhero helps to build the essential thinking required to regulate those behaviours. The Super Flexible SuperHero motivates and empowers children to support themselves–reducing anxiety and meltdowns as they discover and develop their own inner super flexible superhero.
Primary school-aged students who find it difficult to learn this social information intuitively, but who have already progressed with the emerging perspective taking ability and language-thinking skills, need to be taught core social concepts more explicitly. The Super Flexible SuperHero and the Team of MindInvaders help students to understand and become more aware of their thinking patterns and social behaviours: when they are applying their social-emotional smarts versus when their minds are getting sidetracked in less positive and socially attractive ways. The different Social MindInvaders help them zoom in on what difficulty they may be facing in the moment, and the flexible social strategies help them learn to overcome the Social MindInvaders’ powers. Children enjoy being social superheroes in training, flexing and building their social thinking and social superpowers.
The Socially Smart social-cognitive curriculum helps children develop further awareness of their social thinking and social behaviours and learn essential strategies to help them achieve better self-regulation across a range of behaviours.
Children eventually learn they each have a super flexible superhero inside their minds. Super flexible superhero helps them take on the whole Team of Social MindInvaders- cartoon-like characters who embody different social behaviours and challenges. For instance, RockMind makes children get stuck on their ideas, or GlassMind makes them go through huge upset reactions. As students progress through the learning materials, they learn specific strategies that can help them subdue the stuck mindsets that are invading their minds, gaining social competence to last a lifetime.