Awareness of Others
Purpose : This program is intended for children who find it difficult understanding how others respond emotionally to the various disruptive behaviors they do. Children suffering from severe reactive attachment disorders, autism and Aspergers syndrome would all possibly benefit from this program.
1. Settle in a comfortable place where you can be one on one with the child.
2. Inform the child that you will be playing a game called “The Question Game”.
3. Begin by asking a question that would normally entail a storey such as “So tell me about the best game you played today with friends”. You should accept any response (short or long) for the first question. You are, in essence, getting the game going. You will be more demanding for subsequent questions.
4. Then ask the child to ask you a question about your day. The child may ask you a simple one word response question like What color is your shirt?” or “How many sleeps until my birthday?” If the child does that or if he/she is unable to come up with a question, then suggest one that allows you to tell a story. Note: It is important for the child to actually ask the question verbally so when suggesting a question say “Tommy, ask this question –So mommy, what went on at your work today?”
5. When it is your turn to respond, give the child a storey that involves you and at least one other person complete with emotion (feelings), intention (the person’s goals or purpose for doing whatever they are doing) and a sense of the future (what will happen after) to both you and the other person.
6. On your second question to the child, ask a question about a social situation. Then continue to ask clarification questions until you have the child’s perception about the emotion, intention and sense of the future for the child him/herself and whatever other child is involved in the story. If the child cannot produce an answer regardless of how you prompt him/her, then give him an answer that you think is likely or even that you may invent. For example, you could say “Tommy, say – well I had a great day at school and me and my buddy build a rocket that we lit during recess. It flew right over the school yard and landed in Mrs. Reagan’s flower bed. I was excited but my buddy was scared. We will have to go and apologize eventually.”
7. You then continue to take turns asking questions with the child or the teacher alternately providing answers about how each person interacts with others in terms of emotions, intentions and how things likely evolve in the relationship in the future.
8. Emotions – Putting in your own emotions into your stories is important at every stage of the process. The adults need to exaggerate a bit his/her own emotional expression when speaking and be something of an entertainer during their answers. Using exaggerated facial expressions and being a bit “off the wall” is a good idea. If your child tells you “you are being silly” this is a good sign.
9. Intentions – Putting intention in your answers and asking for intention in his/hers is also important. This allows the child to start thinking about what others want or why they do things, something that is difficult for some kids to connect to.
10. Future – Finally, integrating statements about time is also important. Time incorporates often intention and emotions. “He will move because he can’t stand the noise and wants to find peace and quiet” is a statement that incorporates both emotion and intention within a time context. Statements like this one are your goal for your child.
The question game consists of having the therapist ask a question and having the child answer and then having the child ask a question and getting the therapist to answer. The goal is to:
1. Get the child to participate in the answer and question behavior.
2. Get the child to provide questions and answers with emotional content.
3. Get the child to provide answers and questions with intentionality content, i.e. content that communicates will or intention or reasons for doing (theory of mind content).
4. Get the child to provide answers and questions with content re future.
© Dr. Charles Emmrys PhD.