Annette shows how the Growing G.R.E.E.N. visual strategies help her engage with the outside world.
When people ask me whether I have proof that Growing G.R.E.E.N. InterActions Social Literacy Program has been effective, I review the variety of positive changes that I have witnessed in the students and clients I've worked with since I started to develop the program in 2011 at the San Diego Center for Children, a school for students with emotional challenges.
By providing "Guiding G.R.E.E.N. Thought" cards on student desks that said "I can wait", and practicing the ability to wait for longer periods of time, I helped elementary school students learn to sit in their classrooms to wait patiently for their teacher to call on them, instead of constantly blurting out. I helped other young students learn to analyze simple social situations so they could focus on the other person's topic and make empathetic statements instead of not having an idea of what a topic was and not being aware of another person's preferred topic at all. When they initially didn't want to do anything they were told, I witnessed resistant kids turning into motivated, cooperative students who, with the program's engaging movie clapboard, wanted to act out the program's scripted social scenes (G.R.E.E.N. Scenes) again and again to make the scenes better. I have helped adolescents learn the advantages of making choices to benefit their Classroom and Home Teams. individuals truly started to act like they cared about the Team and made mutually beneficial choices when they understood why it was beneficial to make one choice over another and were reinforced for making these choices in structured and then unstructured situations. Students and teachers at the school program, as well as parents and their children in my clinical practice, learned to engage in "cooperative conversations" through the presentation of lessons, visual strategy sheets and the power of truly thinking that they were on the same Team. This helped them work together, communicate and compromise. The idea of what "WE" can do together to achieve "Our" Common Team Goal has been so very powerful and transformative for the Classroom and Family Teams who have used the program's Team building strategies.
Now I will introduce you to one student who made significant progress in her interaction skills while I worked with her for three years. She is older than the other students with whom I used the program, being in a transitional high school program in which she was learning life skills and obtaining vocational training between the time of typical high school graduation and the time when this student and her classmates were reaching the age of 22. This young woman's name is Annette. Annette is a talented artist, able to draw the negative action choices that she made initially and then the positive action choices she learned to make instead. I worked with Annette for an hour and a half each week along with her teacher or a classroom aide, who then was carried out what I had taught her into the classroom or work environments. Whatever problem arose in the classroom or in the community, we were able to talk about, highlighting the negative vs. positive choices that could be made in each "scene". The following program concepts were extremely helpful for Annette:
One of the most powerful strategies used with Annette was guiding her to "Show Positive Outside Action Control". She was guided to draw a picture of what happened in a negative scene, focusing on what she was doing and saying and how the others around her were being affected. After she drew the scene, she was asked to tell what it showed. She then was asked to add the thought bubbles and word bubbles that would show what the people around her were thinking and saying. She then was guided to draw what she could do in a positive scene. Again, she would be asked to add in what others would think and say in reaction to her positive action choice. Annette then repeatedly practiced reviewing the whole choice sheet. The process started by her being asked to talk about the negative scene, then cover this negative scene with her hand so she could focus solely on the positive scene. It was through this technique that Annette started to have numerous positive behavior choices pictured in her head. Her teachers, aides and parents could quickly guide her to think and make those behavior choices. These numerous choices will be shared in future blogs. For now, we will focus on a behavior choice that has let her develop the attention that is necessary for her to be successful in school, at home, at work and in the community.
Annette loved to focus on the concept of "magic" and wondered why others did not always think about "magic". I noticed that she often thought about "magic" when she was clapping her hands in a "self-stimming" manner, focusing on something going on inside her head. I started to redirect Annette's focus on "magic" by telling her that it was useful to have "inside" magic, but that it would be extremely powerful for her if she also developed her "outside" magic. When she used her "outside magic", she could be more independent in her functioning at work (maintain her focus on a work task) and in the community (e.g. watching for stop where she needed to exit the bus). When she used her "outside magic", she was using her brain to pay attention to what was going on around her, remember what was happening around her, and hold conversations with the people around her. Through this deliberate focus on increasing her awareness of paying attention "outside" vs. thinking about her "inside magic", she progressed from needing maximum cues to stay focused during classroom lessons, work tasks or conversations to being able to independently pay attention to lessons, complete routine work tasks and engage in conversations for 10 minutes or more!!
In the video above, you see Annette finishing her drawing and writing additional details to "Show Positive Outside Action Control!" The focus of this sheet was for her to be thinking about keeping her hands down in her lap so she could independently notice the signs that would tell her to get off at the next bus stop with her classroom aide.
Annette now is able to display more self-control over this behavior that has significantly limited her attention to what goes on around her. When she is not displaying self-control, she only requires a minimal prompt to use her "outside magic" to start to pay attention to the people and activities around her so she can interact appropriately. You can see this in the video below. Through strengthening Annette's self-monitoring skills and then lengthening the duration of her attention skills, Annette has been able to learn about the advantage of being punctual and reliable, and being someone her boss could depend upon.
Can you develop your own ability to "Show Positive Outside Action Control"?