My ten-year old is a petite, loving, social, creative, extremely intelligent child (I am not biased, of course, ha!) who happens to have high functioning autism. Homeschooling allows her to have a caring instructor (me) who is deeply committed to a rich education while trying to help her to grow her ability to handle strong emotions, sensory overloads and times when life does not go as planned, her Achilles’ heel. However, there have been some occurrences this past year which have brought social-emotional learning strategies to a new priority level.
This week, I added a few activities to our day to focus on social-emotional learning. First, we took a mid-morning break at 10:30am with www.GoNoodle.com for a couple of movement videos, then a couple of yoga videos, then a rainbow breathing video. (All four of us appreciate the videos are only a few minutes long so we can work a lot of variety into our break. The girls also take turns choosing the videos to grow their avatars, so I appreciate the ease in which we can switch between their accounts from the pull down menu.)
After the rainbow breathing, while everyone was calm and focused, we watched a cognitive behavior therapy video on controlling negative thoughts, via Youtube. The video, found here, is very simple, with no bells and whistles, however gets the message to children in simple language that they can easily understand about “poison” and “anecdote” thoughts. The producer of the video, Joel Shaul, has a website, AutismTeachingStrategies.com, with numerous printables available for FREE for working with children on the spectrum. I printed the “poison” and “anecdote” thought bubbles activity that correlates with the video.. We only did about six of them today, but they loved it. We will eventually do the whole set, as well as watch the rest of the series of eight videos, and do the correlating activities at our pace. The videos and materials are especially geared toward kids with ASD, however I find the material applicable for any child (or adult for that matter). Mr. Shaul is also the author of several books for children with autism and a game called Ryuu, which is described in this Youtube video, and is available for purchase at The World of Ryuu.
Ryuu is a card game about dragons, similar to a trading game like Pokemon. The six dragons move through four levels of evolution from eggs to mature dragons, hindered by dark forces such as black and white thinking and inflexibility, and helped by light forces such as gray thinking and flexibility, respectively. We finished our social-emotional learning lesson, I mean mid-morning break, by reading from the CD-ROM that came with the game about the Land of Ryuu (Ryuu means “dragon” in Japanese) and one of the dragon’s stories. The dragon’s back-stories are written to be relatable by a child. The kids loved it. We examined each of the dragons cards today. Next “session” we will further explore the Land of Ryuu and stories of other dragons, as well as start exploring the light and dark forces that will shape their evolution (maturing). I am not going to lie, this was not an easy decision to buy this. I do not usually plunk down $60 for a game. However, I felt this would be more like a curriculum for us than just a game, and indeed it is. I also had the girls watch the Youtube video for children about the Ryuu game to make sure this is something they would be interested in. Plus, the game came with 2 decks of cards, so thinking we will keep one for play and use the other as a “reward” deck so the girls can earn their own cards for trading. Because this game is created for children, it is relatable to how ALL children feel sometimes, not just kids with ASD, I would recommend it to anyone who has a child who seems to struggle with social skills.