The Thinking Behind This Technique:
Social skills consist of a broad range of abilities that help individuals interact smoothly with others in their environment. Everything from waiting until a person finishes talking before speaking, smiling when you first see a person, making eye contact and waving when you see someone you know well are all skills that improve and solidify your relationships with others. When individuals have difficulty with these and other social skills, they tend to have fewer friends and to have more difficulty maintaining those friendships.
Of the skills that are vital to school age children, following skills are among the most important. Following skills consist of being able to join in and follow the direction of another child or to participate as a non-leader in a group. For other children, a child that can follow is an attractive play mate because they tend to be less bossy and to get into fewer altercations. This program aims to help children with poor following skills become more proficient at the all important skill of being just another kid on the play ground.
1. Identify 3 to 4 peers in the class or in the grade that are fairly popular and
appropriately assertive. These will be the peer leaders that the child would
2. Identify a day of the week when you will do this program. It should be done
only once a week for the length of a recess.
3. Introduce the program to the child by saying:
“I would like us to play a game. This is called following Friday (or
whatever day of the week you have chosen) and it is a game that can
help you have more friends”.
“What I want you to do is to follow Jamie (a peer) wherever he goes and
do what he wants to do. This is like follow the leader and your job is to
be as good and polite a follower as you can be.”
4. Introduce the program to the participating peer leader in a similar manor by
saying that he will be the leader. The peer leaders used at first should be fairly assertive in temperament. As the program progresses, the teacher should use
more timid lead children so that the control focussed child has a chance to
practice their skills with different types of peers.
5. After the recess, meet with the child and his peer leader very briefly to see how
it went and to cheer them on. The teacher will want to monitor if the peer
leader had fun, and what games were played. We would urge the teacher to
only give positive feedback. Even if it went badly, the teacher should say
something like “its great that you tried and we will work at it again and have
more fun next week”.
6. Rotate the peer leader each week so that one child is not overly burdened with
the task. Typically, you would have a minimum of three peer leaders but some
class have as many as 10. If done well, the peer leaders will find the exercise a
lot of fun and typically, peer leaders are happy to be of help and are eager to
have their turn.
7. For children who have not learned follow skills well, following can be difficult.
They may resort to control strategies such as saying to the peer leader “don’t
you think it would be a good idea if we did this”. The teacher should be on the
look out for this and to correct it positively if it happens.
Who Is This For?
This program is useful for children between the ages of 5 and 12 who have difficulties with being bossy. Children with a diagnosis of ADHD, ODD, Aspergers, High Functioning Autism, Attachment Disorder and Tourette’s disorder are some of the children who benefit form this kind of strategy.
How Long Should the Program Last?
Typically, the program should be used for a minimum of six months but it may be in place for a number of years. We would encourage the teacher, the child’s parents and others involved in the child’s education to not pursue the program past the point where the child does not want to participate any more because it makes them look different. But if the child continues to be bossy, the teacher, parents and others should really try and sell the program to the child. One pattern of program usage we have found useful for resistant children is to institute the program for two months at the start of the year and again for two months just after Christmas. That way the program remains fresh and interesting.
There are three chief benefits to this approach. They are:
1. The participating child will gradually learn new skills as he/she participates in the program.
2. The peer leaders will feel that they are contributing positively to a peer that they would have known as troublesome or under-involved. The result is a healthier class culture and the promotion of an attitude of inclusion in the student body.
3. The participating child will be exposed to new children and will typically expand his peer network.