Open the Doors, and See all the People

Open the doors, and see all the peopleGot a student who is anxious about the big unknown world of school? Our kids love the advent calendar at Christmas time so we are going to do a modified “Back to School” version. Countdown the days until school starts with small doors that open to pictures of things they will get to do at school. Be sure to include your child’s favorite activities, such as puzzles, tricycles, or building blocks. Other ideas to add in to discuss could be the mode of transportation to school, particularly if your child will be riding the bus, and even a typical meal for their school day.┬áBe sure to include friends pictures if you know they will be attending the same school. By month’s end you should have many fun things they can look forward to doing and seeing on their big day!

Magnets: A Great Visual for Relationships

Visual, magnetsIf a child is going through a rough patch with friendship, or if the child has some particular problems that interfere with peer relationships, you can try using two magnets to help raise awareness.


You can say something like this: “People are like magnets. Sometimes they pull toward each other and other times they push away. Let’s talk about what things you do and say that help make other people want to be around you.” Now demonstrate how two magnets pull toward each other. Engage the child in discussion regarding the child’s social assets.


“Sometimes people do things that can push others away.” Now, orient the two magnets to each other so they push away from each other. “What are some things you do and say that ‘push away’ others?


With kids with Asperger’s, and others struggling with social awareness, this can be a useful visual approach to focus on improving relationships.


Joel Shaul, LCSW

Boo! Ring-around-the-Ghost

Ring-around-the-GhostEach month our preschool classrooms target a group social game. We teach games step-by-step, but our goal is to keep it F-U-N. We began this several years ago, and received feedback from parents that it was helping our kids be more successful at birthday and family parties- a great bonus.

This month’s game is “Ring-around-the-Ghost,”a version of Ring-around-the-Rosie.(Special thanks, SurfMama.) We play this after lunch, a good time for giggling. Goals for most social games include sustained participation, orienting to the group activity, anticipating one’s turn, turn taking, learning to be a good loser, cheering on friends, and following the rules.We build in tangible and social reinforcement at high rates for those demonstrating targeted skills. It is amazing how quickly these are learned.

We begin with the ghost standing in the middle and looking through a simple ghost mask with cutout eyes. We make our own masks using die-cut ghosts on popsicle sticks. The ghost looks at their friends and teachers circling around, holding hands, and singing the familiar tune: Ring- around- the- Ghost. Who will he scare the most? Spooky- spooky. The ghost says, Boo!

For preschoolers, saying Boo! is pure fun.Unlike Rosie, no one falls down. The child or teacher that the ghost is looking at when the singing stops simply becomes the next ghost in the middle.

This game also provides an opportunity to facilitate a child’s understanding of looking at the speaker and the importance of gaze direction.At early stages, we actually take time to draw an imaginary line and connect the ghost’s body orientation and gaze direction to the next ghost. We ask, Who is the ghost looking at? and give high fives as everyone guesses.As a SLP, this is an important nonverbal and social communicative behavior to understand. When a teacher’s orientation is not to the child, it signals, are not my turn now.This is a critical building block to understanding that do not interrupt my teacher now. I need to wait. She is talking to someone else.

Ring-around-the-Ghost. Enjoy.And, “Boo!”

Trick-or-Treat Learning Opportunities

Trick or TreatTrick-or-treat. Silly fun. Either inside your classroom, or at home practice: A) knocking on door or ringing the bell, B) waiting for someone to open the door, C) saying trick-or-treat, D) opening your treat bag, and E) saying thank-you. Wow, who would have guessed that there are so many imbedded, natural opportunities for social communication in this highly practiced verbal routine?


No need to give candies while practicing, but do use treats. In our classrooms we use tiny toys and manipulatives that stay in the classroom. Kids can make choices at the different stops when offered, and even learn no, thank you. We vary lessons to let them play with the toys when trick-or-treating is over, and then practice sorting them into correct groups (e.g. toy cars in this group, blocks here, and animals there.) Other times, when food is given as treats, kids separate items into I eat this; I do not eat this. The rule is consistently, I do not eat and open anything until my mommy/ daddy/ teacher checks all my treats. Trick-or-treat learning opportunities. Again, who would have guessed?