Sunday, September 21, 2014

Because I'm "Appy"

Over the years I have become increasingly dismayed about the state of mental health services in this country.  I come to this conclusion authentically after witnessing those with mental illness suffer in different ways.  Often diagnosis comes late, and then, rather than good treatment, experimentation with a series of medications ensues.  Medications  that either make one feel flat, cause them to gain weight, or even, cause panic attacks.  Certainly, I understand that in many cases medication is necessary and appropriate, however, in large part good therapy can be more effective than meds.  As an individual on a lifelong journey of improvement I have recently been acquiring skills that have not only allowed me to effectively deal with whatever life happens to throw at me, but have put me on the road to contentment.  It has also become abundantly clear that what I am learning and practicing are skills that I can also apply to my work with students around social.

Available here
In most instances we enter the world emotionally sound.  As we grow our experiences, both good and not so good, shape what we think and feel and thus how we respond behaviorally.  It's a fairly simple cycle: experience, thought, feeling, behavior.  I started to look at this cycle in terms of the students I see for social-pragmatic work. Sadly, I can't change their negative experiences and I certainly can't tell them to feel differently based on their experiences.  My goal is to help them learn to modify their behaviors and respond in a more positive and socially appropriate fashion. What's left?  The thought. What I can do is help my students to reframe their thinking before becoming emotionally heightened and acting out.  I have used the graphic on the left to depict the cycle and provide an easy visual for my students.  Previously I've written about a workshop presented by Erik X. Raj.  It was a fabulous presentation on how to use the iPad in our work with students. One of the apps he discussed has a perfect "application" for helping students reframe thoughts.  ChatterPix Kids allows you to turn screenshots or photos  into "talkies" simply by tracing a line on the picture and recording.
Download in iTunes

I've used ChatterPix in conjunction with Michelle Garcia Winner's Unthinkables (available here) to help students practice reframing a typical thought/response to a situation.  Using the ChatterPix Kids
App and a screenshot of the Unthinkable, students record a typical unthinkable-like response.  The Unthinkable comes to life! Next I have the students reframe the statement using a screenshot of a brain, emphasizing flexible thinking. The possibilities are endless.  Here are two examples of how we used ChatterPix Kids; one is a middle school student and one is a fourth grade student.

We have had quite a bit of fun using ChatterPix, particularly when addressing social language skills. Naturally, transfer of these skills requires consistent practice and reinforcement, nevertheless using a bent that is fun and different makes it all much more palatable.
How do you use the iPad for social thinking?  Let me know, I'm always on the search for new ideas and have fun!


  1. Oh I can't wait to find a friend who could use this strategy! Love MGW and that app sounds so perfect! Can't wait to grab your visual. This is a great way to help our students see the impact their actions/behavior have on social situations and that they control the outcome!

    1. Sparklle, I hope you have tons of fun!! I love your input!

  2. Anne, that's awesome and I am going to do it!

    1. Bridget, it is really a lot of fun for the kids. I think you are going to like it. Let me know how it works!