What if I told you that social communication skills can be developed using apples? Would you believe it? Well… it is true! Here is WHY it really does work!
Each month our Social Butterflies Club groups have a theme based on the time of year or a common theme amongst schools. The reason we use themes in our social communication programs is simple. Some children with social communication delays also have some difficulty with language development. Social skills begin at birth with communication attempts between a mother and child. Social communication is further developed with daily interactions and language development. You can read more about social skill development here. When a child has difficulty with social skills, we can often trace it back to a gap in development for some reason. To help bridge the gap, we have a theme that correlates with the child’s environment. If the child is in a preschool classroom then that is the child’s social “environment”. In that environment, they are doing theme based crafts, stories, and sensory play. In September, a common theme is “apples”. However, if a child is having a hard time with concepts surrounding “apples” they will likely not be able to participate in (or will avoid) those social learning opportunities within their “environment” aka their classroom.
Here’s an example:
We have an activity called “Apples for our Friendship Tree” in which the students make their own apple and add it to our tree. The concept is that the apples are all different just like people. The instructions are to paint the apple your favorite color. In order to complete this activity, the child must answer the question, “what is your favorite apple?” or “what is your favorite color apple?”. However, some children have no idea that there are different colors of apples or even different kinds of apples!
Prior to the task (as part of our social circle time), we have an activity where the kids are shown a visual of various kinds of apples and colors of apples. They can point to the apple they like and we will label the apple for them. The next time we meet for group, we ask the same question “What is your favorite apple?” showing the visual and they begin to learn to answer the question. We take it a step further in the older groups and take away the visual cues using our “Qs” activity. The older kids ask their peers the “Q” (question) “What is your favorite apple?” and “Why do you like that kind of apple?” Now we are also targeting social interactions with peers!
As you can see, it’s all connected and can be fluid from one developmental domain to the next.
At the Social Butterflies Club, there are lots of theme activities in the social communication skills curriculum that also work on motor skills, play skills, and sensory skills — all while helping develop crucial language skills for maneuvering their environment. And that is what we are working for when we are teaching social communication skills.