Teaching social skills can be one of the most challenging areas of programming. It’s so important but it doesn’t come naturally for so many of our students. Social skills are individualized and constantly changing so the program has to be dynamic enough to keep up. So how do we program for this in a way that makes it natural and doesn’t become rote?
Using Board Games to Teach Language
Teaching our students to play a board game with another adult is not enough. There are so many ways to make this a fun, learning experience!
Choose a game that your student likes
If your student is really into Star Wars, use that as a board game. This could be as simple as sticking Star Wars stickers on Jenga blocks. If your student isn’t interested in playing “Pop-Up Pirate”, then he’s not going to pick up any skills along the way.
Decide What Your Teaching Target Will Be
There are so many ways to slip in teaching skills to a board game activity. Some examples:
- Tolerates losing
- “How…” questions/sequencing (eg: “How do we play Candyland?”)
Use Text Cues
We love using text cues because they’re so much easier to fade than a verbal prompt. To teach commenting, write out the comments that you want them to make, these can be specific to the game your student likes.
Practice, Practice, Practice
These skills are all about the practice trials. If you’re using the board games to teach commenting, practice the specific comments right before you play – have him/her repeat after you or practice reading from the text cue. Make sure you get in enough trials so that they can improve.
We always want to take data so that we know if a target is mastered so we can introduce a new one or if it’s struggling and needs to be adjusted. Find the data collection method that works best for you and the situation and that doesn’t require you to spend too much time taking data. We like rating scale data for this because it allows the therapist to play the game and be really fun and involved and then record the level of prompting required afterwards.