I am over the moon excited that Heidi Britz is guest blogging for us today on Social Language. It is one of the areas that I feel very inadequate in and I thought I’d ask her how and where one gets started when we get a student with these needs on our caseload. So Heidi, thank you and take it away!
Hi, I’m Heidi Britz, the SLP in SmartmouthSLP. I have been in the field for over twenty years and wouldn’t have chosen any other job! I am a school based speech language pathologist with a passion for social language. I drank the *Social Thinking ® Kool-Aid ten years ago and never looked back! I develop teaching and therapy materials for my fellow SLPs in my school district, and for my students.
This is a question that I get often with from my CFs (clinical fellows, new SLP grads). Social language therapy (and evaluation) often feel a little nebulous. SLPs grasp the big concept of social skills but breaking it down into therapy goals and interventions is a bit trickier, like nailing jell-o to the wall. This area is my wheelhouse and my heart goes out to my students who struggle to figure out the social world. I have also observed that many new grads are
coming into their first job without a lot of information about social language development and therapy, and are often confused about where to start. In response to this growing population of students, the CFs that I supervise, and my fellow SLPs that I collaborate with, I have developed a whole TPT store of social language materials (you can visit HERE)!
I work in a large county school system of over 200 SLPs. We see students from PreK through adulthood in our Community-Based Instruction programs. I am one of five lead SLPs for our county and we collaborate on streamlining processes and paperwork for our fellow SLPs. One of the big areas I spearheaded was developing social language checklists, identifying RTI interventions and creating rubrics for the county. Good referrals are the
first step, but what does that look like? The RTI process has been slippery slope for social language because it’s so deeply embedded with behavior. Our social language checklist is broken down into four areas: work habits, social skills, social awareness and perspective taking. This is given to the parents, teachers and if the student is old enough, to them to complete. It is not unusual for the parent’s checklist to look very different from the teachers, considering the social demands at home are often a lot less than at school. Once we find a target area (and determine that it is not a behavior using more observation data, behavior
checklist and discussion with the team), then we align a rubric to collect the RTI data with specific strategies in each tier. You can find my version of this RTI packet HERE .
Once we get to testing, I truly believe it is best practice to assess using standard and nonstandard assessments. Standardized scores are not going to give you the whole picture for students with social skills deficits. This testing is appropriate for students who have theory of mind and solid language foundations, not our more significantly impaired students with autism (another post for another day). I like using some tests from the Comprehensive
Assessment of Spoken Language ( CASL) including Inferences, Meaning from Context, and Nonliteral Language. The Pragmatic Judgment test gives me insight into the surface or rote social skills of the student. Many of my high functioning students with ASD ace this test, but still have significant social deficits in the more subtle and complex social competencies (like negotiating, working in groups with peers, and understanding sarcasm). I also use the Social Language Development Test (SLDT, both Elementary and Adolescent) for more
standardized pieces of higher level social skills. I really like the informal social language assessments from Super Power Speech, Speech Paths (I love her parent/teacher handouts that explain social language concepts beautifully!) and Nicole Allison’s TPT stores. The Double Interview from Social Thinking ® is a very insightful informal tool as well that looks at the subtleties of social cognition, and this article describes the assessment process. I love using the Think Social® book to develop my social language goals for my students
too, as it makes them measurable and easy to understand for the team. Side note: If your goals are so technical or jargon-filled that only you understand them, you need to change them. Why? More parent and teacher friendly terms are crucial because it should not only be the SLP implementing and measuring progress on these goals.
Now, what about setting yourself up for success once you have your goals in place? I have some ideas that might help! I created this social skills group planner HERE to get you organized and off to a great start with tons of forms, data collection and lesson outlines for your groups. I also have this social language self-assessment product for elementary students, and the adults in their environments, to rate their progress across social skill concepts in common school settings. Feedback on how the student thinks they are doing, as compared to others who are observing them on the same skills across the same settings, is great information (and data collection)! As far as therapy materials, it is important to have a road map in mind as to what concepts to address first and remember that you are teaching skills one baby step at a time with lots of practice and visual modeling. One of my best selling products, Is That Sarcasm? teaches an often intangible skill by breaking down the steps to support understanding. We have to understand the why of a social concept before we can begin to apply it, so I add related social videos (you can check out my social video board on Pinterest and pin away) and lots of opportunities to practice with different people and across settings. Remember, Social language therapy is a crock pot not a microwave!
You can find Heidi here:
*If you don’t know what Social Thinking is, check it out at: www.socialthinking.com