4 Parts of a Conversation: How to Help Kids With Social Skills Issues Navigate

At a Glance

  • Navigating a conversation can be difficult for kids with social skills issues.
  • Different skills are required for various parts of a conversation.
  • You can help your child get better at joining, starting, maintaining and ending conversations.

For most people, having a conversation is easy. We don’t think about having to make appropriate comments or how to join in when other people are talking. But for kids with social skills issues, the normal flow of conversation can be hard.

Important skills, like reading body language and knowing what to say (and when to say it), don’t come easily to them. Here’s a look at the four parts of a conversation, the skills involved, and how to help your child navigate each one.

1. Joining a Conversation

Group conversations are tricky because there’s more than one person to connect with. Each person has a unique personality and communication style. The group itself has a unique way of functioning, based on who’s in it and what’s being discussed.

Skills involved:

  • Reading the body language of the group to know if it’s appropriate to join in.
  • Using the right phrases to ask to be included.
  • Understanding the tone of voice people use when they aren’t OK with you joining.
  • Knowing what’s being discussed, and staying on topic.

Why it might be hard: Trouble reading body language can keep kids from knowing if a conversation is private or open. They may also misunderstand the rhythm of the conversation. Is the pause in talking a natural lull? Or is someone just taking time to breathe? And some kids don’t get that they need to talk about the topic at hand to join a conversation.

How to help:

  • Use videos, TV shows or real-life events to point out situations where a group is turned away or talking privately. Also, point out when people in a conversation are looking around and seem open to others joining.
  • Model for your child how to wait for a break in the flow of conversation and then ask a question, like “Is it OK if I join you?”
  • Remind your child to listen and say something related to what others are saying. Your child can use “wh” questions (who, what, when, where and why) to get up to speed.

2. Starting a Conversation

Launching a conversation involves a number of steps. To be successful at it, you have to do them all correctly. The first step is often the hardest: figuring out if this is the right time to have a conversation.

Skills involved:

  • Knowing to start with a greeting, and having the language to do that.
  • Recognizing if it’s an appropriate time to have a conversation.
  • Choosing an appropriate topic and having phrases to open the dialogue.
  • Recognizing nonverbal cues that show if the other person is interested and wants to talk.

Why it might be hard: Kids who are impulsive may burst into a conversation without any greeting. They may act like the other person already knows what they’re thinking. Some kids may not be able to read the “feel” of a room to know if it’s a good time to start a conversation. And once they start, they may not pick up on signs that the person isn’t interested in talking.

How to help:

  • Teach basic greeting phrases to use with familiar people (“Hi, how are you?”) and with unfamiliar people (“Hi, I’m Joe—I’m Miranda’s neighbor”).
  • Show your child what someone’s body language looks like when the person does and doesn’t want to talk. Also show examples of a neutral or uncomfortable facethat might mean a lack of interest.

3. Maintaining a Conversation

The work doesn’t stop once kids with social skills challenges enter a conversation. Continuing the conversation can be difficult, too. It requires following a number of social rules—and not just for a minute or two.

Skills involved:

  • Knowing how to take turns in a conversation.
  • Listening to what the other person says and responding appropriately.
  • Being able to stay on topic.
  • Reading body language, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues.

Why it can be hard: Impulsivity may cause kids to blurt something out or interrupt when they’re excited about a topic. Trouble with nonverbal cues may keep them from realizing that the other person is trying to speak or is losing interest. Kids also might be so stuck on one thought that they can’t let go of it.

How to help:

  • Teach your child how to ask follow-up questions to show he’s heard and is interested in what the other person is saying. Give him scripted examples to practice and use.
  • Help your child practice keeping a thought in mind instead of blurting it out. Let him know it’s OK to say, “Remind me that I wanted to say something about that once you’re done,” if he’s worried he’ll forget his point.
  • Brainstorm words or phrases he can use to show he’s paying attention during conversation, like “right” or “that’s cool.” Make sure he knows he needs to mix them up a little because saying the same thing over and over can sound like he’s not paying attention.
  • Role-play and demonstrate how saying something off-topic or at the wrong time can sound like he’s not interested in what someone else is talking about.

4. Ending a Conversation

Ending a conversation can be as challenging as starting one. You have to read the situation correctly to know if it’s the right time to wrap it up. And then, you have to have the words to end it appropriately.

Skills involved:

  • Reading body language, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues.
  • Making sense of tone of voice and other verbal cues.
  • Being aware of how your own verbal and nonverbal cues may look to others (perspective-taking).
  • Conveying intent through language. (For example, “Well, I have to go now.”)

Why it can be challenging: Since many kids with social skills issues have trouble reading body language, they may not recognize that a person is no longer interested or needs to end a conversation. Kids who are impulsive or who struggle with communication skills may also end a conversation abruptly without saying “goodbye,” just walking away or hanging up the phone.

How to help:

  • Demonstrate some of the nonverbal cues your child may see when someone is trying to end a conversation, like checking the time, turning away or yawning.
  • Teach your child some of the verbal cues that show someone is trying to end a conversation, such as not answering questions, saying they should go or saying things like “So…” or “Well….”
  • Explain that your child can use these cues to end a conversation, too.
  • Teach phrases your child can use to know if the conversation is over. One example is: “Are you OK to keep talking, or do you need to leave?”
  • Help your child learn and practice how to close with a sentence like “It was good talking to you,” or “Well, I have to get going now,” before walking away.

For kids with social skills issues, learning the art of conversation takes lots of direct instruction and practice. So it’s important to be patient, and know that you may have to reinforce these skills over and over.

Learn more about what trouble picking up on social cues can look like in different grades. Read how a mom got her son to stop interrupting. And find out how the “chicken wing” rule can help kids learn to respect personal space during conversations.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding body language, facial expressions and tone of voice are key conversation skills.
  • Being familiar with nonverbal cues, like when someone looks around or checks the time, can help your child know when it’s a good time to join or end a conversation.
  • Learning the art of conversation takes a lot of practice, so it’s important to be patient with your child.

 

The source can be found here.

The confusion between accommodation and remediation

“I wish I knew this at the beginning of the school year!” How many times have you realized that you could have done things differently as a parent, had you had better knowledge about your kid’s learning and development?

In this article, I would like to explain the differences between two critical terms: accommodation and remediation. These two terms often remain under-the-radar in many parent-teacher meetings and are the cause of fruitless attempts of improving students’ performance in school. Throughout my work as an educational specialist, I meet with many parents who are faced with many challenges in helping their children succeed with tasks that require cognitive/executive functions. These kids face different kinds of issues on a daily basis. The main two being homework and class performance.

Nevertheless, those issues surface much more in school than at home. Therefore, teacher-parent collaboration is essential. In the absence of effective cooperation, many parents end up feeling hopeless as they see how their children are not fulfilling their true potential as individuals and as learners. Many parents share with me their willingness to cooperate and meet with the school’s demands, but the issues seem to persist; they keep on getting negative reports from the teachers. Nothing seems to be working.

To learn more about their children, I ask parents many different questions seeking to clarify the areas of struggle.
For example, one parent explained to me how his son can read a chapter from the textbook but cannot recall what he read shortly after. A more significant problem emerged when the child started avoiding learning and showing outburst of anger. When the school administrator contacted the parents, the conversation revolved around the behavior and conclusion that the student might have ADHD or dyslexia [or both]. The teacher reported many ways to differentiate the teaching, some of which include moving the student’s seat closer to the board, breaking the tasks down into smaller tasks, and even working with the student one-on-one during lunch time. All these attempts ended up fruitless. The school’s recommendation was to send the student for an evaluation. Sadly, no one suggested discussing a plan of action to remediate to the child’s weak working memory, an essential executive function.

Parents know that when the issue pertains to their children their ability to control their emotions becomes compromised rapidly; some even admit that they feel physical aching during those meetings in school. Another ability that is weakened during these situations relates to asking the right questions, one of which could be the school’s ability to help the child.

If we want to help struggling students, we must clarify two types of appropriate supports. Theses supports fall into two categories: accommodation and remediation. Parents should find out whether the teacher and/or school are able and ready to provide students with these kinds of support. Some schools do so as part of their teaching style, other schools do not. Accommodation means providing support for the sake of achieving a result. For example, erecting a wheelchair ramp at the entrance of the City Hall is a support for the disables who needs to enter the building. Another example, when my student broke his finger in basketball practice, the nurse recommended that he will type his class-notes on the computer. These two cases are examples of accommodations where support is available for one to attain his/her goal. These accommodations are not meant to heal the disability nor the finger of my student. It will, nevertheless, help them achieve what they need to get.

In contrast to accommodation, remediation deals with the healing of the problem. The word remediation stems from the Latin word, remedialis, which means “healing, curing.” For example, a student who suffers from test anxiety and resorts to procrastination will benefit from sessions with a coach or a counselor who will help the student find out about causes and together form effective solutions. Moreover, the student may discover that her test anxiety stems from a fear of failure. The work with a coach will then focus on flexibility and problem-solving skills.

Another example of remediation could be a student with dyscalculia who struggles with understanding number-related concepts. It was the Kindergarten teacher who noticed the problem first. However, due to the child’s ability to remember answers rather than understand processes, the issue surfaced only in fourth grade. At that juncture, the teacher, who did not know the previous teachers, allowed the student to use a calculator in class. After a whole year of using a calculator, the student arrived in 5th grade unaware of the concept of place value. Needless to mention his arithmetic skills were below grade level. To remediate the student problem of dyscalculia, his 5th grade Math teacher will have to find the exact problem or use the student’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) to remediate a few years of Math deficit.

As you may realize, the ramifications of addressing a problem with accommodation rather than remediation can create a cycle of unproductive efforts and growing frustration. I have seen many parents who could not accept the idea that their child will be better off in a different school. These parents perceived their conversations with the school as utter humiliation. Unfortunately, there is a bad stigma for specialized schools. Even though these schools are fully equipped and dedicated for remediation, many parents still perceive specialized schools as institutes for troubled kids.

There are instances where accommodation is the best alternative, but in some instances remediation is the best option. Every parent should seek to understand the balance between these two approaches. The possibility of a blend of the two can also be explored.

Accommodation and remediation are thus two critical terms parents ought to know and understand. For students with learning disabilities, it is always better to inquire with the teacher about the difficulties of the student. Try to look for the facts. You would also want to remind yourself that managing your emotions during the meetings with the school’s representative will help you stay focused and ask the right questions. In addition, taking notes on the conversation will help you remember the key points when you follow up with the grade advisor or the school psychologist for further inquiry. Some of your questions should include trying to understand in which classes your child misbehaves or does not meet class expectations. Ask about the learning activities and the work environment. Find out about the activities your child performs rather well. Finally, ask what you can do at home to support the teacher’s endeavors and your child’s learning.

Showing curiosity and empathy with the teachers have proven to be very helpful. You do not have to agree with them, but mutual respect will surely enhance effective communication and progress. Understanding the differences between accommodation and remediation should change the way you encounter your child’s learning endeavors in school and home as well. Maintaining frequent communication with your child’s teachers by asking relevant questions will help you focus your efforts and resources effectively.

I wish you and your children a happy and successful first semester! Please remember that you can contact me with questions at contact@mrmizrahi.com.

Thank you,

Benjamin Mizrahi

“How I Bring Out My Students’ Unique Skills”

I found this amazing article on using your children’s unique Skills that I wanted to share with you:

“I use a strengths-based approach in the classroom, and I look for ways to tell my students, “Man, I am so lucky to have you as a student!”

A child’s reality is created by the words adults use to describe him. If adults continually talk about student deficits, the student will define himself by what he lacks. This is often the case for kids with attention and learning disorders, who are reminded daily of the skills they’re missing. They think: If they see themselves as deficient, then what’s the point of trying at school?

Using a strengths-based model of teaching kids with disabilities gives kids the chance to redefine themselves and their education in terms of what makes them great — and kids with ADHD have a lot of great qualities. They tend to be more creative, innovative, hyperfocused, and have an incredible sense of humor, which are among the reasons I so love working with them.

[How to Snag the Attention of a Distracted Child]

Kids come with strengths and weaknesses, and harnessing the strengths leads to improvement across the board. It also creates a more engaged learner. In fact, a collection of Gallup data reported that kids who were taught in a strengths-based model earned higher GPAs and were absent from school less often. This is also true in the grownup world. We choose jobs based on our natural strengths, and probably wouldn’t show up to work if we didn’t have opportunities to use our skills on a daily basis.

Helping a child discover and leverage his unique skills helps him develop the confidence to be a learner, and the courage to overcome his weaknesses. Creating that positive atmosphere also makes collaborating with other teachers more productive and enjoyable as they begin to acknowledge one another’s aptitudes.

While adopting a strengths-based model consists mainly of shifting to a positive mindset—acknowledging and creating opportunities for students to let their skills shine— there are some tricks to effectively shift the balance.

1. Measure strengths. Some kids have an idea of their own abilities, but many don’t know for sure. Even if they do, taking a quiz gives them a chance to say, out loud, what makes them great. You can find a series of great tests at UPenn, which contribute to a body of research. You can also find a lower-key Multiple Intelligences questionnaire for free at Scholastic.

[Putting Kids in Charge of Their Learning Needs]

2. Notice and tell kids’ about their strengths daily. It’s important to a) identify what exactly students did well, and b) pair it with an acknowledgement of their effort. Talent alone doesn’t get anyone to the Olympics, my friends, and hard work needs its due credit. If you’re feeling like something is missing in your classroom, challenge yourself to compliment each student daily.

3. Bait for success. Some kids give up on school at a young age when they feel like a perpetual failure. As a teacher, it’s difficult to acknowledge a student’s talents if she never demonstrates those talents. It’s very important — especially for difficult students — to create situations where those learners can be successful, in order for you to point out how skilled they are. They might have a creative solution, a unique insight, or the ability to be helpful when no one else was around. Give them bonus points if they see that no one else was able to accomplish that task (even if it’s because no one else was there). Every day, find some way to tell them: “Man, I am so lucky to have you as a student!”

4. Give options. It can be hard to plan for a group with wide-ranging abilities. Did I say “hard?” It’s impossible. Almost. Providing options for a kid to show what he knows allows him to put his talents front and center and to take charge of his own education. This increases engagement and creates a more independent and self-advocating learner. It is an investment.

[Free Download: What I Wish My Teachers Knew About Me]

5. Teach collaboration. None of us accomplishes anything alone, and nobody is good at everything. Allow children to recognize each other’s specialties and use them together to create something great. Plan group projects, teach students to ask each other questions if they get stuck, and compliment one another throughout the process. Then watch your class collectively develop a great attitude as they learn!”

 

Source can be found here.

Conference in Morroco

Last week, I gave a conference at @mazaganbeachresort about Executive Functions.
By popular demand, I gave a second lecture on the next day. Both lectures provided parents with the understanding of Executive Functions and its impact on our daily experience as parents. I also presented various strategies to enhance its development by using the ABC approach (Antecedent, Behavior and Consequences).

It was a pleasure to visit such a beautiful country. I want to thank @sarahtours_koshertrip for inviting me to speak.

I will give a private conference next week in Englewood, NJ.

Stay tuned for more dates. .

Positive Body Image

How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”

“I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”

Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.
~ Sarah Koppelkam

Help Your Children Understand The Core Values of Friendship

The following activity will take between 20-25 minutes of your time but will have a lasting impact on your child’s life!

Helping your child understand what true, loyal, and happy friendship is can be a complicated task. You should not give up the opportunity to know how your child perceives friendship and what s/he is willing to tolerate to stay in friendship with others.

Below, you can find two charts I created (one for boys and one for girls) to help young students understand the pillars of healthy and happy friendship. We did it as follows:

  1. My child and I spoke about her friends and asked various GENERAL questions about her social dynamic in school.
  2. To make a smooth transition I asked: “Could you complete the sentence: A good friend is….” Fill-in-the-blank questions are more engaging than questions like “Who do you think can be a good friend?”
  3. I suggested we will search in the internet for pictures that described a good friend.
  4. We found four pictures that encompass the values I wanted to illustrate with her: inclusiveness, loyalty, respect, and diversity.

It is essential that your child will describe the picture and only then complete the sentence. Also, make sure to revolve the conversation around the value YOU think are relevant to your child’s social dynamic with her/his friends.

Friendship- GIRLS

Friendship- BOYS

Impulse control (video)

The following video is an illustration of how impulse control can come in the way of young students. It important to remind ourselves that having weak impulse control (Response Inhibition) is NOT a character trait, rather a developmental issue that can be solved with coaching.

I encourage you to watch this video with your child (ages 5-8):

Ask them if this situation is familiar, and feel free to share with them the last time it was difficult for YOU to resist what you wanted to say/do. Talk about the how we feel after and how others might feel when we interrupt them in the middle of an activity or a conversation. Finally, invite them to join you in creating ways to deal with the need to say/do something out of turn. Some strategies that work for students in 1st through 4th grades are:

– Sitting on a cushion

– Stretching while sitting

– Asking to be the teacher’s helper.

– Asking to introduce the story (if you are familiar with it).

– Setting a signal with the teacher to take a short break.

These are just examples to help your child think about strategies that work for THEM.

You should feel free to share with me your experience and ask questions if you wish.