Thursday, April 25, 2013

It’s So Much Work To Be Your Friend

1. What was the purpose of the video?

The purpose of “It’s So Much Work To Be Your Friend” is to bring awareness to parents and educators of how much more important social connections are to the future happiness of special needs children than education.

2. List and describe five (5) major points from the video:

Children with special needs are less likely to have meaningful relationships with their peers. For many this problem stems from their inability to act appropriately in public. Not being able to appropriately act in public is closely tied to the inability to solve social problems, and it can cause the child to be isolated and rejected by their peers. Furthermore, children with special needs may over react to minor social problems. Without peers and appropriate public behavior, children with special needs are less likely to be asked to join activities that other children may.

The social problems children with special needs have may be due to their inability to understand timing and staging, affective match, social memory, social prediction, and social relevance. Many have problems with timing and staging. This means they do not understand that making friends is a process, and it takes a lot of time to make a friend. They often tend to rush relationships with their peers, which tend to push their peers away. Another way children with special needs push peers away, is many of them do not know how to match their emotions with the situation around them. When a child laughs or smiles when the situation does not call for such emotions, the child’s peers may feel the child is awkward. Matching emotions is closely tied to not being able to predict how their own behavior affects the people around them. Also, many of these children often do not remember people’s likes and dislikes, which may cause them to offend people. Another way children with special needs may offend others is many of them often do not understand social relevance. For instance, when most people walk into a room they have not been in before, they observe the room to gain an understanding of the people, place, and purpose of the room. Many children with special needs may not understand the social situation. In other words, they will treat an arcade the same as they would a classroom.

Part of the reason that children with learning disabilities doe not understand social situations is due to their inability to understand paralinguistics. Only about seven percent of communication is done through verbal language, and the other ninety-three percent is done through non-verbal language. For the majority of the population, we understand the non-verbal language therefore our mental stability is not questioned.

Unfortunately, children with special needs’ mental stability is often called in question, because they do not understand one or all four of the areas of non-verbal language, kinesics, proxemics, vocalics, and artifactual systems. Kinesics is how we use our bodies to communicate; it is the gestures that we may use to get our point across. Many children with special needs cannot pick up on these gestures. Therefore, they do not understand when a person has their hands on their hips that they are serious or may be angry. If the children do not understand proxemics, they do not understand how the use of space communicates to people. This problem may vary from culture to culture, because proxemics varies from culture to culture. For most people in the United States, there are four types of space: public, social, personal, and intimate. However, for children with special needs, they may inappropriately utilize proxemics. Often, they may inappropriately encroach on another’s social and personal space. This can cause major problems for children with special needs. For instance these children are more vulnerable to molestation and to become molesters. Another significant problem to children with special needs is they may not understand vocalics, which is how the tone of voice changes what we say. The problems that may arise is punishment for the way they say things, or punishment because they do not understand the emotion behind what other people say. Similarly, children with special needs do not understand what artifactual systems, or the way we dress, say about a person. Unfortunately, they may inappropriately dress for the weather, occasion, comfort, activity, style, age, or gender.

The most powerful part of this video is explaining how important reputations are to all people. Unfortunately, since many of the children with special needs are raised with their classmates, their reputations are often ruined by the time they leave elementary school. The children with learning disabilities that have problems with timing and staging as well as paralinguistics will have difficulty with social contracts, or their social expectations. This turns into destruction of the child’s reputation. Because reputations are permanent, other children may not want to be friends with children with special needs. Lavoie suggests that teachers intervene by rewarding the class for what the child with a learning disability does well, rather than punishing the class for the mistakes the child has made. Changing the way the child with special needs is treated by the teacher can change the dynamic of the classroom and possibly begin to repair the child’s reputation.

The best gift we, as educators and parents of children with special needs, can give the children is the gift of social competence. First, the child with special needs should be taught how to determine who their friends are. The child needs to be encouraged to seek out hobbies that will put them in social situations. The child needs to be taught social information, such as how to act in a line, or what certain symbols mean. We need to learn how to talk to the child with special needs. When a child says something about the way they feel reflect that emotion back to them so they understand ‘I felt like I wanted to hit someone’ means ‘oh, you were mad.’ When the child makes social mistakes, we need to work on only one problem at a time. Do not correct every mistake they make, but correct only one mistake at a time. We should give them a friendship test so they understand that ‘friend’ does not mean, ‘someone who does not pick on me.’ From social competence, children with special needs can develop social skills, which can prevent them from being shunned by other children.

3. Summary reaction: What were your thoughts and feelings regarding the video?

I enjoyed watching this video because it brought me a better understanding of how important social skills are to children with special needs. As a mother of a child with special needs, I know how important it is for educators to understand the stress the families of these children as well as the children themselves are always under. In this video, Lavoie brought these issues out into to the open. As a future educator, this video has brought me to a better understanding of how important the social skills are for children with special needs. I feel the video is the perfect tool for teachers to help them understand how they treat the class because of the child with special needs can permanently effect and damage the reputation of children with special needs.

4. Application. How will you apply the information you learned to your classroom and other areas of your life?

Before watching this video, I never thought of classmates as family. Now, I do. I like Lavoie’s idea on rewarding the class for what the child with special needs does well instead of punishing the class for the mistakes the child with special needs makes. I like the idea that by doing this a teacher can help to repair the reputation of the child with special needs. This reward system is something I will consider to use in my classroom.

More personally, I also realize how important those social relationships are for children. I have always thought that Damien is perfectly happy being alone, because he says he prefers to be alone. Therefore, I rarely have pushed him to make friends with other children. After watching this video, I talked to some friends of mine, whose children have autism. We all like the idea of using bowling as a way to give our children something they can excel at, as well as using it as a method to make new friends. One of the physical therapists at West Texas Rehab overheard us talking about it and decided she would join our bowling group, so that she can show the children how to bowl. I hope bowling is something that will help build Damien’s confidence and develop his social skills.

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