by Colleen Smith, MA, BCBA – PTS Director of Behavioral Health
December is filled with the most exciting holidays for children. It also has the most” gift-giving’ holidays. Children eagerly await Hanukkah, Christmas, and/or Kwanza to see what presents await them. There are many ways you can help your learners prepare for this season of family, gifts, and fun!
A: Working the holidays into your Discrete Trial Teaching programs may look like adding echoic targets to teach learners to say, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah”. Teach these same targets as intraverbals so that your learner returns the greeting when they hear it. Teach additional intraverbal responses for questions like “What do you want for Christmas?” or “Who will you see on Kwanza?” or use common holiday songs as intraverbal fill-ins. Teach Tacts for holiday symbols such as “Menorah”, “Dreidel”, “Bells”, “Kinara”, or “Santa”.
B: Use this gift giving season to practice social skills such as “Perspective Taking”.
Gift giving should come from the heart, but it should also be an item the receiver will like. Many of our learners get stuck on seeing things from their perspective, so if you ask them what mommy wants for Christmas the response may be Robux or Legos. Poor mom!
Direct instruction of perspective taking and practice selecting presents for others during social skills sessions can save mom from another year of matchbox cars or slime. (PS- spouses may need this lesson too!)
C: Although we teach perspective taking and aim to give gifts the receiver would like, gift givers sometimes miss the mark. Cue teaching the little white lie, sometimes called the social filter or “Think it or Say it”. This is the skills of receiving a gift you don’t like without letting on you don’t like it. This can also be directly taught and practiced in social skills groups.
Lesson plan 1
Given direct instruction in perspective taking skills, learner will demonstrate perspective taking by correctly selecting an item based on a peer’s preference for three first-trial opportunities per peer for two different peers.
1. items or pictures of items that learners in group would like. These items may be from learner’s previously conducted preference assessments or general items that are preferred by the age group.
2. Items or pictures of items that no one in the group is likely to want as a gift.
3. a gift bag
1. Select a student to be gift giver and a student to be gift receiver.
2. Have the giver close their eyes or step out of the room.
3. Have the receiver select one items they would like and two items they would not like to receive and put them in a row on a desk or table.
4. Bring giver back and have them view the items.
5. Tell give to think about the receiver and select an item they would most like to receive as a gift. They should then put the item in the bag and pretend to gift it to the receiver.
6. The gift receiver will tell the gift giver if they selected the correct item or not.
7. If the correct item was selected praise the giver for “thinking about other people”.
8. If the item selected was not an item that the receiver would like, tell the gift give that they did not select the correct item. Review previously taught lessons on how to determine what other people may like and what it means to take perspective then try again.
score + of the giver selects the correct item on the first opportunity without prompting. Score – if the giver selects an incorrect item or is prompted.
Lesson plan 2
Given direct instruction of using a social filter, learner will accept a gift they do not like without indicating they do not like it (frowning, making a negative comment, etc.) in 80% of opportunities per data collection session across three sessions.
Materials: gift bag, items, or pictures of items that a learner will likely want to receive as a gift and items or pictures of items that they would not.
1. Place an item the learner would not like to receive as a gift in a gift bag.
2. Tell the learner you are going to role-play receiving a gift that he or she will not like.
3. Pretend to gift the item to the learner. If they do not like the item, they should say something like, “Thank you for thinking of me!” or “This is a nice gift!” their body language and facial expression should match their words.
4.Practice across non-preferred items and then intersperse trials of preferred gifts and non-preferred gifts.
5. If the learner makes a negative comment about the gift prompt with the question, “Is that a think it or a say it?”. Then suggest a response the learner could use and repeat the trial.
6. For an expanded lesson, have the gift giver react to the learner’s response. Highlight this reaction for the learner. For example, “How do I feel when you say you like my gift?” and “How do I feel when you say you don’t want my gift?”
Data collection- Score:
+ if the learner uses their social filter and – if they do not or if they only do when prompted. Score + for a correct trial following a prompted trial. Calculate percent of opportunities using social filter by dividing the number of + by the total number of opportunities and multiplying by 100.