A Social Transformation: Young Man with Autism Overcomes Self-Distraction & Impulsivity to Display Positive Interactions
Through explicit lessons, visual strategies, personally relevant role-playing and goal self-assessment, Max learns he is part of a Team and learns to monitor his attitude and his language to interact in a easygoing, positive manner. In just five months, he progresses from acting in an impulsive, negative manner to controlling himself to think first and choose positive words for interacting with his Team.
This year, I have been providing weekly treatment with a small group of students in a Transition Class in a San Diego County high school district. These 18-19-year-old students are involved in vocational training and learning independent living skills. I used
lessons, strategies and activities from my Growing G.R.E.E.N. InterActions Social Literacy Program to help the class improve their social skills so they could become successful, active participants within their community. I presented explicit instruction so they could understand that their actions affected others around them, the others they could consider being on the same Team with them. The students were guided to generate Common Team Goals and Team Rules collaboratively so they all could feel like they had some "ownership" in the ideas the group chose. With these Team goals and rules spelled out, it would be clear what kind of behavior was expected and what could be achieved if they all worked together, and thought about how well they were interacting.
The students were given instruction about what it meant to be thoughtful vs. being impulsive in their actions. Thoughtful vs. impulsive behavior was acted out so they could see what these contrasting behaviors looked like and felt like. They were also given explicit instruction regarding what it meant to act in ways that were G.R.E.E.N.: Grateful, Respectful, Empathetic, Easygoing and Navigating. They were given strategies to navigate by staying calm, and were given scripts they could use to exhibit the other prosocial behaviors.
Max has been one of the students in the class. Our time together started off with his not wanting to participate in our group discussions or answer my questions. The classroom teacher and aides who joined in our lessons told me he typically exhibited a negative attitude about the activities that were presented to him. It took cajoling to get him to respond to questions.
In October, his teacher was asked to fill out a Green Actions Evaluation Chart regarding Max and his G.R.E.E.N. behavior. Max could display a behavior a little bit (attaining a score of 1), half of the time (with a score of 2), most of the time (score of 3) or all of the time (score of 4). He received a total of 10 points on the six behavior categories. Taking responsibility for his actions was the additional category, with Max displaying that most of the time. He was noted to act in an empathetic way most of the time, but acted grateful, respectful, easygoing, (flexible & cooperative), and navigating only a little bit (1).
Max started actively participating when he was given opportunities to act out the scenes being presented with a movie clapboard. He acted out scenes to practice some basic G.R.E.E.N. scripts but also acted out some scenes to meet his own Personal Goal.
Staff told me Max was often focusing on movies that he was thinking about in his head instead of being aware of what people were saying to him. This made him appear disrespectful because he was often not paying attention to what the other people were saying to him. He would also act in an upset manner if had been asked to do something. He was asked to start using the strategy of thinking about whether he was showing self-control by keeping his negative feelings on the inside and showing positive feelings on the outside. He also was guided to think about NOT playing the movies in his head when he was around other people. This was especially true if he were to develop appropriate communication skills on his job sites. He was given Guiding G.R.E.E.N. Thoughts to help him guide his own behavior "in the moment".
Max drew himself waiting with other classmates at the nearby trolley, telling himself, "I keep movie scripts inside when I am in the community."
He was asked to draw what his positive behavior looked like. He acted out scenes where he was guided to engage in conversation instead of focusing on any internal distractions. Also, after explicit instruction regarding the value of accepting constructive feedback, he was guided to begin accepting this kind of feedback.
When Max was asked in November and then in March how much he was accepting feedback within various categories, it was noted that, in March, he was accepting feedback to solve problems and use the right tone of voice most of the time whereas initially he was open to this kind of feedback only half of the time.
Week by week, Max and his classroom staff tracked his progress regarding his Personal Goal. He also benefited from the positive feedback he was getting when he started displaying positive interactions. Max started to easily accept feedback regarding his social behavior. In fact, Max has made remarkable progress in his social interaction skills in the last five months. He tracked his behavior himself on Personal Goal sheets and also on Goal Progress graph charts.
Comparing the evaluation from his teacher from October to March, Max had moved from exhibiting four prosocial behaviors just a little bit to three of them most of the time (Grateful, Easygoing, Navigating)and another one half of the time (Respectful).
Max was guided to think weekly about how much he was displaying the behavior that related to his goal: be nice when I'm upset and show positive emotions. He learned how to track his own behavior in terms of percentage of positive performance. He started at a baseline of 15% when he started tracking himself on 1/7/19. He gradually improved, reaching a 90% level by March 4th. Staff agreed with what he was stating for his performance levels. From being described as someone who needed special handling in order to get him to cooperate and interact, Max transformed into a person who strived to show his positive side by answering people's questions and calmly telling people what he needed. He progressed from focusing primarily on movie scripts that he was playing in his head, to limiting his focus on these when he was around other people. He is now able to develop his conversation skills since he has started interacting with others around him. Max's improvement is certainly an example of a successful social language transformation.
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