Shawn Amador, LCSW, is a school social worker who runs an after school comedy troupe, and is a part time therapist. Her new book, Teaching Social Skills Through Sketch Comedy and Improv Games, publishes this month.
Kids and teens with social cognitive deficits have difficulty seeing outside of themselves, which contributes back to having more social difficulty. Due to their struggles, social skills training could possibly be a trigger or at the least, tap into insecurities. We need to find ways to teach social skills in real time while interacting, thus also increasing ‘feel good’ brain chemicals which can increase positive feelings about interactions.
When adding theatre, improv skills, play-writing and sketch comedy to social skills training, it’s like adding spoonful of sugar to help the social skills go down! Shawn Amador, LCSW, has created a program that adds all of these activities together, which makes “Social Theatre”™. Participants in Shawn’s Social Theatre group therapy, say that it does not feel like therapy. In fact, we make fun of ourselves through brainstorming socially awkward moments which we make into plays and correct with a more effective social skill in the next scene.
In Teaching Social Skills through Sketch Comedy and Improv Games, there are activities that are adaptable to many social and intellectual levels from academically gifted, typical, to mild and moderate cognitive abilities. Moreover, social skills sketch comedy scripts from the book can be utilized in teaching lessons or for performance.
If you would like to try some games that teach social skills, here are some popular games:
- “Red Light Green Light” for Self Control
- “Mother May I” for cognitive flexibility
- “Yes, and” improv game for collaborative idea building
- “Feelings Charades” for feelings recognition and expression
- Acting out a familiar story, switching roles and acting it out again for perspectives
Victoria Honeybourne is a senior advisory teacher, trainer and writer with a particular interest in promoting wellbeing amongst young people on the autism spectrum. We caught up with Victoria upon the publication of her latest book, A Practical Guide to Happiness in Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum, to ask a few questions about how it came about.
What motivated you to write A Practical Guide to Happiness in Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum and who is the book for?
There has been a lot of interest recently in using findings from the positive psychology movement to improve happiness, wellbeing and resilience in children and young people. However, I realised that many of the strategies advised were not always the most appropriate for those on the autism spectrum. I wanted to write a book which looked at these issues from an autistic point of view. The book is for anybody working with children and young people on the autism spectrum – mainstream teachers, teaching assistants, mentors, speech and language therapists, and parents.
Ages 13 to 18
A comic book story that gets teenagers talking about sexual consent. It invites them to debate what’s OK and what’s not OK and encourages them to consider other issues surrounding sexual consent, such as toxic masculinity, pornography and sexting. A set of questions and links to useful online videos can be found at the back to fuel classroom discussion.
This learning resource is taken from Pete Wallis and Thalia Wallis’ new graphic novel What Does Consent Really Mean? which follows a group of teenage friends chatting about the myths and taboos surrounding sex and consent.
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A Guide to Mental Health Issues in Girls and Young Women on the Autism Spectrum: Diagnosis, Intervention and Family Support is the first book to look specifically at how mental health issues relate to girls and young women with autism, covering theory, research and tailored interventions for support.
In this extract, taken from Chapter 6 on Anxiety and Depression, author Dr Judy Eaton explores the results of a number of studies into anxious behaviour in girls and young women on the autistic spectrum.
Evidence suggests that an estimated 40 per cent of individuals on the autism spectrum will suffer from high levels of anxiety (Van Steensel, Bögels and Perrin 2011). Clinical experience would suggest that this figure is likely to be higher, particularly amongst those with the pathological (or extreme) demand avoidance profile. In an earlier version of the DSM, DSM-III (APA 1980), ‘sudden excessive anxiety’ and ‘unexplained panic attacks’ were included amongst the core criteria for a diagnosis of autism. However, subsequent versions of the DSM (IV and V) do not include this. The reason for this is not entirely clear. Hallett et al. (2013) cite the meta-analysis by White et al. (2009) which found that between 11 per cent and 84 per cent of children with a diagnosis of autism display anxiety. Of the 31 studies analysed 30 per cent were diagnosed with specific phobias, 17 per cent had obsessive compulsive disorder, 17 per cent had social anxiety and 15 per cent reported features of ‘generalised’ anxiety. Their results suggested that children with autism were twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders compared with their neuro-typical peers. High levels of anxiety have a negative impact upon education, social relationships and social participation and on other members of the immediate family group (Reaven 2011). There is also an increased likelihood that these anxiety disorders will persist into adulthood.
Michael Panckridge, co-author of Be Bully Free, takes a look at the different forms that bullying can take and suggests strategies that victims of bullying can adopt to overcome the problem.
Bullying is about power and the perceived need to gain dominance over another person either physically, intellectually, socially or emotionally. Research into the effect of bullying behaviour indicates that not only does it produce negative short-term psychological problems, but can also affect a person well into their adult life and even lay the foundations for significant and ongoing emotional health problems. Sometimes the bullying is overt and immediate. However, in many cases, the bullying is low-key and ‘hidden’, and the recipient may not be aware of it immediately. Initially the recipient may think it is their own behaviour that is causing the bullying – that there is something wrong with them or what they do. When this happens, the recipient of the bullying tends to avoid being with other people and they use strategies to escape. This may include avoiding school, which can signal the start of school refusal. Continue reading
Nick Luxmoore, author of Practical Supervision for Counsellors who Work with Young People, explores the positive impact that good supervision sessions can have on counsellors who are struggling to break down barriers with young people in their care.
It’s Nikki’s first day as a counsellor and she’s about to see four young people. “Help!” she says, panicking. “What am I supposed to do?” Elsewhere, the girl Stephanie’s been seeing for counselling has ripped up a box of tissues and stormed out of the room, Marvin’s complaining that his counselling waiting list is getting longer and longer, and all the young people at Maggie’s school appear to be cutting themselves or feeling suicidal….
However experienced or inexperienced they may be, all professional counsellors are obliged to have regular meetings with a supervisor: someone with whom they can untangle the “stuckness” that develops in their thinking and relationships. Most are only too glad of the facility and most counsellors are able to choose their supervisor, someone who may or may not already have experience of working with young people. Continue reading
Margaret Malpas, author of Self-fulfilment with Dyslexia, provides an overview of the creative process in a person’s brain and explores the reasons why creativity is a particular strength of people with dyslexia.
Her book, printed on cream paper so that it is easy on the eye, is a very simple to follow guide designed to help people with dyslexia make the most of their true potential. Royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the British Dyslexia Association. Find out more about the book here.
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In this extract from Disruptive, Stubborn, Out of Control?, Clinical Psychologist Bo Hejlskov Elvén looks at the psychology behind children’s behaviour and offers fresh advice to teachers on how to handle confrontation in the classroom. Referring to his method as the low arousal approach, he puts forward that it is best not to rise to the bait, but to act moderately in order to restore harmony and gain the student’s trust.
With many examples of typical confrontational behaviours and clues for how to understand and resolve the underlying issues, his book provides an innovative approach to restructuring the teacher-student relationship. Click here to find out more about the book.
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In these stories taken from Ann Morris’s new book Adopting: Real Life Stories, parents who have chosen to adopt an older child reveal the challenges they have faced of accepting a child into their family who is more aware than any baby or toddler of their past. Admitting that the road can often be tough and that many placements do break down, they nonetheless give examples of remarkable transformative journeys.
Click here to download the extract
With more than 70 real life stories, revealing moments of vulnerability and moments of joy, this book provides an authentic insight into adoption. These stories take the reader on a journey through every stage of the adoption process, from making the initial decision to adopt to hearing from adoptees, and offer an informative and emotive account of the reality of families’ experiences along the way. It includes chapters on adopting children of all ages as well as sibling groups; adopting as a single parent; adopting as a same sex couple; adopting emotionally and physically abused children; the nightmare of adoption breaking down; contact with birth parents; tracing and social media and more.
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Veronica Bidwell, author of The Parents’ Guide to Specific Learning Difficulties, discusses the importance of treating your children equally during Christmas. Admitting that children with specific learning difficulties tend to receive more attention than their siblings from their parents throughout the year, she reflects that Christmas should be used as a time to bridge rather than expose these gaps.
As we come up to Christmas I find myself thinking about ‘fairness’. Am I being fair in the way I plan presents for children and grandchildren? Is fairness to do with value, with what they want or with what they need at this particular time? Is a scooter equal to a pair of pyjamas or a boxed set of CS Lewis’s Narnia books?
Children develop a keen sense of fairness and justice at quite an early age. I think most of us can remember the indignation and hurt if things within the family didn’t seem fair. Why did my little sister always seem to get away with things for which I would be told off?
There are things children want and there are things children need. All of them need love, time and attention from the important adults in their lives. They need support, guidance and discipline. They may need help with homework, in preparing for exams, in mastering a new skill. Help may entail time, attention and resources. Continue reading