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That's LIFE! Social Language
Ages: 11-16   Grades: 6-11

Help adolescents be effective, appropriate communicators in a wide variety of situations with these lessons in Basic Communication, Conversation Skills, Emotions and Self-Esteem, Peer Relationships, and Working with Others.

Outcomes

  • Interpret nonverbal cues and express emotions appropriately
  • Improve peer interactions
  • Communicate effectively in a variety of situations
  • Develop critical thinking, self-awareness, personal responsibility and self-advocacy
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Students learn to use specific social behaviors through direct instruction, role-playing, observation, and discussion.  The practical training helps them:  

  • pick up subtle, nonverbal cues from others
  • recognizing and express emotions appropriately
  • recognize others' perspectives
  • maintain self-control
  • interpret messages quickly enough to respond appropriately in conversation
  • decrease impulsivity and learn not to interrupt
  • use past experiences in order to decide how to deal with current situations
  • understand and read others' intentions
  • relinquish control in groups
  • initiate, maintain, and end conversations well
  • predict social consequences of actions or comments
  • code switch to match communication style to the situation
  • resist peer pressure
  • support others
  • handle conflicts and disagreements while maintaining friendships

The activities are organized into five units—Basic Communication Skills, Conversation Skills, Emotions and Self-Esteem, Peer Relationships, and Working With Others.  Each unit includes:

  • goals & objectives
  • indications a student needs training in the target skill
  • student handout to introduce the target skill
  • activity guidelines
  • vocabulary required for comprehension and expression of the target skills
  • student activity sheets (12 to 22 in each unit) for practice of the target skills, discussion, role-playing, and critiques

Extra helps include:

  • Assessment checklists for teachers, parents, and students
  • Conversation evaluation forms
  • Phone conversation evaluation form

Copyright © 1998

Components
175 pages, assessment checklists, answer key
  • For students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), explicit instructions to attend to facial expression and tone of voice can elicit increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, part of the key network for understanding others' intentions (Wang, Lee, Sigman, & Dapretto, 2007).
  • Only 7% of the information we communicate to others depends upon the words we say; 93% depends on nonverbal communication (Mehrabian, 1971).
  • In selecting remediation targets within social communication among adolescents, clinicians should consider the relative importance of various communication skills in terms of enhancing peer communication.  Communication skills involving social perspective taking (including nonverbal language) that focus on another person are more valued by adolescents than skills that focus on the speaker's thoughts or linguistics (Henry, Reed, & McAllister, 1995).

That's Life! Social Language incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.

References

Henry, F.M., Reed, V.A., & McAllister, L.L. (1995). Adolescents' perceptions of the relative importance of selected communication skills in their positive peer relationships. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 26, 263-272.

Mehrabian, A. (1971). Silent messages. Belmont, CA: Wadworth.

Wang, A.T., Lee, S.S., Sigman, M., & Dapretto, M. (2007). Reading affect in the face and voice: Neural correlates of interpreting communicative intent in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64, 698-708.

Author(s)

Nancy McConnell, Carolyn LoGiudice

Biography

Nancy McConnell, CCC-SLP, was a marketing coordinator for LinguiSystems for 15 years.  She felt called to return to the schools as a practicing SLP and currently works for the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency serving students from preschool through grade 6.

Carolyn LoGiudice, CCC-SLP, wrote and edited products and tests for LinguiSystems for 25 years, incorporating her previous experience as an SLP in school and clinic settings.  She is now retired and savoring time with her family, friends, and hobbies.

Nancy and Carolyn both graduated from San Francisco State University and began their friendship and professional partnership there.  While researching peer pragmatics among pre-adolescents and adolescents with language/learning disorders, they realized that these students were at a severe disadvantage in using social language skills.  This research was then validated in the Interpersonal Language Skills Assessment (ILSA) (LinguiSystems, 1985; no longer in print), which was standardized across the U.S.  Since that time, Carolyn and Nancy have made it their mission to create materials to help students of all ages improve their social language skills and their peer relationships.

Introduction

Competent social language skills are as important as reading skills for success in today's world. In fact, employers often consider effective interpersonal skills the most important factor in hiring and keeping employees.  Yet, while most people understand the importance of getting along with others and communicating well, few students receive specific training in social language skills.  Most students develop adequate social language skills as part of natural maturation through imitation, trial and error, and general recognition of what makes the world work well for them, yet some students need direct instruction and supportive training to acquire effective social language skills.

About 25% of "normal" students require some type of interpersonal skills redirection after high school, and approximately 75% of students with learning disabilities have social skill deficits.  The same neurological deficits that impact math, reading, and other academic areas also impact these students' abilities to pick up subtle nonverbal cues from others or to interpret messages quickly enough to respond appropriately in conversation.  Impulsivity can result in interrupting or butting in without considering the social consequences.  Memory deficits can impede recalling past experiences in order to decide how to deal with current situations.  Misreading others' intentions can escalate minor confusions into tragic misunderstandings.

That's Life! Social Language teaches students how to be effective, appropriate communicators in a wide variety of situations.  Through direct instruction, role-playing, observation, and discussion, students learn how and why specific social language guidelines can improve interpersonal relationships in all aspects of life.  These are the specific goals of the program:

  • To help students develop personal strategies to communicate efficiently and effectively in a variety of settings
  • To foster critical thinking, self-awareness, personal responsibility, and self-advocacy

Most students want to be accepted by their peers and to get along with people.  They want to interact appropriately with friends, teachers, family, and others.  They want to earn respect and independence as they work to become competent adults.  The specific social language areas featured in this program address the most important communication needs of middle school and high school students, including the following:

  • making and keeping friends
  • recognizing and expressing emotions
  • recognizing others' perspectives and emotions
  • maintaining self-control
  • relinquishing control in groups
  • initiating, maintaining, and ending conversations
  • predicting social consequences of actions or comments
  • code switching to match communication style to various situations
  • linking past experience to novel situations
  • resisting peer pressure
  • supporting others
  • maintaining positive self-esteem
  • handling conflicts and disagreements

Training alone will not guarantee appropriate application in students' lives.  As with acquiring any new skill, your students will need plenty of chances to practice and evaluate their social language skills performance on their own in order to integrate these new skills into their lives.  Also keep in mind that outside factors that might impede mastering a skill, such as complex personal problems or situations beyond students' control.  In most cases, however, That's LIFE! Social Language will enhance your students' abilities to communicate and interact purposefully and appropriately with others.

The information and activities we have included in That's LIFE! Social Language came from our research and social language training with middle school and senior high school students with language or learning disabilities.  We recognize that these materials can only be part of effective training—you and your students are by far the richest resources for effective, on-target training and relevant practice.  Modify and supplement these materials to suit the specific needs and interests of your students.  We wish you and your students great success and enthusiastic fun in the process!

Nancy and Carolyn