Social Thinking® At Home
Every child is different. Knowing your child and understanding how he/she learns best will help you generalize Social Thinking® into the home and in the community. Some children are attracted by the Social Thinking® language and will use it at home. Other children may hear you speak about certain Social Thinking® terminology and request you to stop. In their minds, the language is to be used at camp or school and not at home. Both scenarios are ok because every camper is learning, demonstrating understanding, and making progress on a daily basis. If you wish to use certain lessons/terminology at home, please review the following tips:
Have a basic understanding of ABA. Know how to reinforce and shape new behaviors. Some Social Thinking® concepts are new to your child. Some of these concepts are challenging for your child to use. Teaching new skills requires frequent reinforcement that can be faded over time. Before expecting your child to use a new skill, pre-teach, model, reward, and redirect inappropriate behaviors by teaching the replacement behaviors. Use more positive statements about what you want to see and less negative comments about what you want to change. The book Understanding Applied Behavior Analysis: An Introduction to ABA for Parents, Teachers, and Other Professionals by Albert J. Kearney is a short, easy read that provides a clear and concise overview of ABA and how it can be applied into the school and home environment.
Make sure you follow through with natural consequences after certain behaviors. If your child says or does something that makes you extremely proud, surprise him/her with reinforcement. For example, if your child typically struggles with disappointment, but suddenly handles a situation well, reinforce this skill. You may say, “I’m so proud of you for handling that glitch. You made me so happy so I want to make you happy. Let’s go out for some ice cream!” If your child chooses an unexpected behavior such as destroying his/her brother’s Lego creation out of frustration, you could remind him/her that making others feel upset often makes that person not want to be around him/her. At that time, the natural consequence may be that Legos are no longer available because you are not sure that he/she can be safe around them. Perhaps the rest of the family can play something together and only include your child who initially impacted feelings in a negative way when he/she fixes feelings. If an apology occurs or the child fixes feelings in another way, reinforcement can occur again.
Be forgiving. Once your child gets back on track, reward and praise. Natural consequences are not meant to be punishers or long term, but are meant to teach your child how people respond to you based on how they feel about you. If you make others feel good, people will make you feel good. If you make others sad, people may not want to be around you or play with you.
Use Social Thinking® with your whole family. Be a great model. Use the language to demonstrate how the contingencies occur with everyone, not just your child attending Social Thinking® group. Social Thinking® is natural and it’s something that we all use. Everyone has thoughts about the people they are with and about people they know. Positive thoughts build positive relationships.
By Nikki Stewart, MA, BCBA