At KidSpeak, LLC we offer a variety of different social groups so that all our children can have an appropriate group that focuses on each of their individual social goals. We spend a lot of time placing the children in the most appropriate groups and then with their best peer matches. When creating social groups, you want to focus on pairing children based on a few things: 1) what skills do they have in common; 2) what skills can they help teach the other children; 3) what skills can they learn from their peers; 4) do their personalities match and much more.
Once we have the kids in the group, then we focus on structuring and planning each group while focusing on each child’s specific needs. A few years ago we had two different groups of children at very different levels but they both had a similar difficulty: it was hard for them to respond to their peers in conversation and just within basic comments. For one group it was difficult for them to respond because they didn’t have the language. For the other group they had the language but pragmatically they were unsure of what to do. So for both groups we created a fun lesson that we call “Descriptor Word Time”. As it can be common in therapy, initially there was a lot of “trial and error” and we had to figure out what would work best for each set of kids. But it did work and it continues to work for all of the kids. One of our main goals for our children socially is to fit in with their peers and to have positive social interactions and experiences to base friendships and relationships on. Over the years it has been amazing to see how something so simple as a “Descriptor Word Time” can have such a huge impact on all of the children.
Here is a step by step on how to introduce and use descriptor words:
1. Create a specific “Descriptor Word Time” for your group, your child, etc. This will be the time that you introduce a new descriptor word and review your old ones. For school or therapy, you could add in a “Descriptor Word Time” during your circle time or snack time. This has worked well for our kids. At home you could engage in a “Descriptor Word Time” at breakfast, lunch, or morning calendar time.
2. Decide if you want to introduce a new word each week or each month. We like to introduce a new word either every two weeks or one time month.
3. Decide which word you want to start with. We like to start with “fun”. Laminate your words and find a place that you want to keep them. Pick an accessible place where you will see them and your child will see them. The more you see them, the more you will use them. The more your child can see the words, the more they will use the words.
Time to work on descriptor words:
1. Now it’s time to start. During your “Descriptor Word Time” you will sing the Descriptor Word Song. You can make up your own or use ours:
This is a great song because it focuses on your child: asking questions, learning new words and learning what each word means.
1. Next use the word in a sentence and try to get each child to use the word in a sentence towards themselves and then toward others. Such as: “Playing Candy Land is fun!”, “Your shoes are fun!”, “Our book this week is awesome!” or “You did an awesome job keeping your body in the group!”, etc.
2. Place the word somewhere where everyone can see it. You have two goals: 1) to use the word throughout your entire day by verbally using the word and pointing to the pictures and 2) to use an open phrase, point to the picture and pause for your child to fill in the blank like, “That was so much…….” and “Playing blocks is …….” Your goal is to use the descriptor word throughout your day all day long. The more you use it, the more your child will use it.
Once your child begins to use the word, it is time to continue to use that word but then to add in a new word.
“Descriptor Word Time” will not only give your children the social skills and vocabulary to use with their peers but also the confidence to engage in comments and conversations with them, which is one of the first steps of creating positive social interactions and experiences.
To help get your own “Descriptor Word Time” started with your child, social group or classroom, you can purchase a set of visual descriptor words at the KidSpeak Store: https://www.kidspeakdallas.com/store/descriptor-words
The Picture Communication Symbols
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