>We had a great program last month at Friendship Circle. Our speaker, Anna Fredman, MS. CCC-SLP, spoke about Friendship Fundamentals: Building Social Skills for Adolescents.
Anna discussed social skills topics and techniques specific to older teens
The first topic was Theory of Mind.
Theory of mind:
• Is the understanding that another person’s thoughts, feelings, and knowledge may be different from one’s own thoughts, feelings, and knowledge
• Typically develops by about age 4
• Develops later (or not at all) in children with autism or social pragmatic communication disorder
Theory of mind affects the…
• Ability to empathize with peers
• Ability to understand peers’ unspoken signals
• Ability to carry on conversation
• Ability to take another perspective
Children older than 4 or 5 who have not developed “theory of mind” may require explicit teaching. These children need help taking others’ perspectives and understanding that someone else’s feelings and thoughts may differ from their own. When we help these children develop their theory of mind, we help them lay the foundation for successful interactions and, ultimately, friendships.
There are many different techniques to teach social skills related to “theory of mind”. Here is one exercise:
“What I think versus what I say.”
Children with weaker social skills may say exactly what they are thinking without understanding that this might hurt another person’s feelings.
With this exercise, children learn that “What I think.” and “What I say.” are sometimes the same, but not always. For example, if a child receives an invitation to a classmate’s birthday party at an ice skating rink, he might be thinking, “I hate ice skating; it’s dumb.” It might be acceptable to say this to his parents at home, but there would be negative social repercussions to saying this out loud to the classmate at school. Instead, he might learn socially acceptable alternatives such as, “Thank you for inviting me, but I won’t be able to come.” ‘
A child might think, “There is no way I am ever going to wear this sweater my grandma just gave me!” Again, in this case, the child would need help taking the theory of mind perspective and understanding that these words would be hurtful to the grandmother. In such a case, it would be better to simply say, “thank you.”
Another topic of the presentation was Implied Messages. Children with social language deficits often struggle to understand the underlying meaning of social discourse when it is not explicitly stated. Students can be taught to consider not just the words but the message that someone is trying to send with their words: