I plan to use this space to post news of upcoming events and also from time to time to share ideas or Social Stories™ that I believe may be helpful……
Now that the new school year is well under way I am being asked once again to write Social Stories™ for children on the autism spectrum around the topic of school breaktime (called ‘recess’ in the U.S.) specifically to help them join in games and to ‘be social’ and ‘make friends’.
Break time is often one of the most challenging and uncomfortable periods of the day for our children.
Break time is often one of the most challenging and uncomfortable periods of the day for our children. It is easy to guess why this might be. Autistic children have a different sensory and social experience to typical children. They may become quickly overwhelmed by noise, the proximity of other children, the chaotic atmosphere of the playground – by all the things that make breaktime so interesting and exciting for their typical peers.
There is a problem here, and it is not with the children on the autism spectrum, but more with typical people expecting, and wanting to see the development of social behavior in all children at break time.
I believe it is important for everyone to take a step back here and think about the purpose of breaktime. After sitting still and following directions all morning children need to let off steam and ‘reset’ at breaktime in order to be able to return to the classroom refreshed and ready to learn again. Many typical children enjoy the freedom of breaktime to be noisy, running and shouting with their friends, playing games, and sometimes chatting within a group.
the needs of children on the autism spectrum are likely to be different to their typical peers. Solitude and silence are often sought out to recover from the confusing social demands of a busy classroom
However, the needs of children on the autism spectrum are likely to be different to their typical peers. Solitude and silence are often sought out to recover from the confusing social demands of a busy classroom. Pacing up and down the perimeter fence may bring comforting predictable proprioceptive input. Looking at subjects connected to their special interest in quiet areas such as the library may take the child to a comfortable and familiar place in their mind outside of the uncomfortable school experience. They may shy away from games they find difficult to understand, or interactions that they find continually baffling. It is important to affirm that it is okay to choose these activities at breaktime, and also to provide access to autism friendly environments in which to do them. Everyone has different ways of winding down and resetting.
Providing social information proactively before sending the child into the playground really does level the playing field for them and this is where Social Stories™ can really help. For this reason in the book ‘Successful Social Stories for School Students with Autism’ I have included a section devoted to Breaktime. These Stories are examples that describe the unseen, unwritten social information that guides children to more successful play with others. The first Story, ‘What Happens at Breaktime?’ is a helpful reminder to child and staff of the purpose of breaktime as well as an affirmation that it is okay to choose activities that help. It is included below. Other titles in this section of the book include,
- Who is the owner of a game in the playground?
- How to join a game in the playground.
- What is a chasing game?
- What does home mean in a game?
- What does the whistle mean in the playground?
- What is lining up?
- Who is in charge of the playground?
What happens at break time?
– A Social Story™ taken from ‘Successful Social Stories for School and College Students with Autism’ by Dr. Siobhan Timmins, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers
At school children usually work hard in lessons. At break time children usually stop work and relax. Break time mostly happens outside in the playground. Sometimes when it is raining break time happens indoors in the hall.
Relaxing at break time usually helps children get ready for the next lessons. Some children like to run to relax. This is okay.
Some children like to play a game to relax. This is okay.
Some children like to talk to other children to relax. This is okay.
Some children like to be on their own in a quiet place to relax. This is okay too.
At break time:
I may join a game or
I may talk to another child or
I may run around or
I may be on my own in a quiet place or maybe do something else.
Usually the junior library is a quiet place to go at break time. Relaxing at break time usually helps me get ready for the next lessons. I am learning what happens at break time.
Watch this space for the next post on the more adult form of Social Stories™ – ‘Social Articles’
Thanks for reading!