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  • Writer's pictureRachel Grant Waters

Social Thinking and Mental Health

Many of you will have seen reports from a BBC investigation this week into current waiting times for child mental health referrals. Faced with an increased number of referrals,

some linked to anxiety and distress caused by the disruption to our everyday lives that we have all experienced due to the global pandemic, many children and their families are waiting over 12 weeks to be seen by a practitioner.

At AHSC the mental and physical wellbeing (wellbeing is defined as a person’s ‘health and happiness’) of our pupils and staff has always been given high priority. So, what can we do at school and at home to support our childrens’ wellbeing through the difficult times, especially now that we are transitioning back to some sort of ‘new normal’? Below are some of the terms used in social thinking sessions (which are delivered across the school and college) that can be incorporated into conversations with children who are struggling with transitions. It is really helpful if similar vocabulary is used at home too. If you would like to know more about how social thinking is used with your child’s class, please do be in touch with the relevant Speech & Language Therapist. Useful Vocabulary EXPECTED BEHAVIOURS - the behaviors we expect to see in social situations have changed during the pandemic. Children may need reminding of what is expected or unexpected in various settings, especially as we all transition back to new routines. Gentle reminders or explanations which label a reaction as expected (don’t forget to label the positive behaviours!) or unexpected can give a useful framework for children. THINKING THOUGHTS AND FEELING FEELINGS - it can be helpful to explain that everyone has their own individual thoughts. This reinforces that people are individuals and we can link emotions or feelings to these thoughts - something that is scary for one person might be exciting for another. It is important to acknowledge that we all experience ‘uncomfortable’ emotions at times and to normalise this so that children do not think it is ‘wrong’. FLEXIBLE THINKING - something we have all been forced to do as situations evolve and change! Some pupils will have been introduced to the Social Thinking© characters - Thinkables and Unthinkables. These imaginary characters can support or disrupt social thinking and therefore our experiences in social situations. Ask your child if they have heard about ‘Superflex’ or ‘Rock Brain’! THE SIZE OF THE PROBLEM - is a very useful way of talking about how we respond to challenging situations. All of the Social Thinking© vocabulary also links to the Zones of Regulation© framework. We aim to incorporate both approaches into everyday life at AHSC to promote inclusiveness and social success - which contribute to our overall wellbeing. Sue Madraszek

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