Social Skills Can Be Taught
Teaching Social Skills
The Boy, the Sock and the Boot
I’m writing today about a personal experience I had when I was working as an educational assistant with a boy with Asperger Syndrome. I’m sure it could apply to many children with special needs, not just those affected with Asperger Syndrome. Social skills and life skills often need to be taught to these children. They don’t come naturally to some.
We’ll call the student in question Barry. Of course this is not his real name.
I walked down the hall to find Barry’s face red and tears streaming down his face. The other children had already gone in to the classroom after having taken off their outdoor winter apparel and putting them in their locker. Barry was obviously shaken and was standing in front of his locker with one boot on.
I wondered what had happened this time, as I had many experiences with Barry being upset and frustrated with a lot of every day situations. He was a student that was assigned to me and I had been working with him on social skills.
I found out that Barry was agitated because one of his socks came off and remained in his boot when he took his boot off. He was perplexed and really didn’t know what to do. Mind you, this same boy was extremely intelligent and could carry on a conversation like a professor teaching a lesson on DNA structure. He knew everything there was to know about airplanes and both world wars. I was astonished many times by how much he knew, yet here he was crying in the hall because one of his socks remained in his boot when he took it off. The point I am trying to make here is that he really didn’t have the social skills to deal with this and really did not know what to do about it.
I showed him that he could take the sock back out of his boot. Once he had done that, I told him that he could put it on his bare foot. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But to this little guy it wasn’t. He had to be shown and he had to be taught what to do. We repeated the scenario a few times, with Barry taking off his boot, putting the sock in as if it had come off in it and taking the sock back out and putting it on his foot.
He was then able to carry on with putting his shoes on and walking in to class calmly. When I had my scheduled time with him later that morning, this is what we did.
We took out his notebook entitled Barry’s Social Skills. It was one of those half interlined and half blank paged books. He wrote the title on the top of his page “The Day Barry’s Sock Came off in His Shoe”.
He did this ever so neatly and carefully under lined the title with his ruler. Then he drew a picture of the scene as he saw it. He drew himself in the hall with the boot on the floor.
Underneath, on the lined portion of the page, I wrote a few simple sentences leaving a few blank spaces for him to fill in the missing words. It went something like this. Today Barry’s ______ came off in his boot. Barry was very _____________________. He took his sock out of the _____________ and put it on his foot.
That was it. That simple strategy worked. It was like a light bulb was turned on and he understood. This understanding was reinforced by him drawing an illustration.
During the course of the year, many pages were filled in his social skills book. Often they were not preplanned but dealt with things that occurred during his day that either frustrated or confused him.
I will always fondly remember Barry. I wonder how he is doing now and hope he is well. One thing I know for sure is that he’ll know what to do the next time his sock comes off in his boot.