Monday, September 26, 2011

Problem Meter

We all have problems--overdue bills, bald tires, oversleeping, bad hair.  Most of us can gauge our reactions to the seriousness of the problem (except perhaps those of us who experience Road Rage!). Bad hair might merit a scowl, while an overdue bill might merit a frantic trip to the bank.  A giant problem such as a bad fall might merit a bit of screaming, calls to 911, and crying.  The point is that most of us can gauge our reactions based on the severity of the problem at hand.    Most of us can, but with some of the children I work with (many on the autism  spectrum), a problem (whether it's a spelling mistake, or a major illness) is always treated as a disaster.  It's hard to function that way----always on edge because so many disasters are always happening.
With one group of kids I see, all very nice, fun children, I've been using Michelle Garcia Winner's curriculum "Think Social". The book provides step-by-step methods for teaching social-cognitive and -communicative skills to students who have these challenges that affect their school and home life.  I started with lesson 1 and am now on the 4th lesson. (I'm trying to follow it as it's written--the author definitely is more knowledgeable about this than I am!)  This week's lesson had a great premise--that kids need to learn to gauge reactions, so we made a 'Problem Meter'--zero is no problem while 10 on the meter is a disaster, such as a trip to the hospital.  We've had many discussions and first practiced ranking problems on the meter such as 'wrong answer on a math paper', to 'throwing up', to 'someone hitting them'.  Today's lesson was in ranking feelings and expressions based on the problem meter. Visuals were from Boardmaker, but any feelings pictures could be used.  The teacher has the 'Problem Meter" now in her classroom, and can use it during moments when the child needs help gauging reactions. I'm hoping this will cut down on needless meltdowns and encourage problem-solving behaviors.

A book that goes nicely with this is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst. We ranked that character's problems too!

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