The 4th session of Circle of Friends met today with 5 of the 6 group members. This session is the last preparation session before we invite D to join the circle. We had the students put themselves in D’s shoes and predict how he might feel and react to the group. They decided D’s reactions may be, not wanting to enter the room and hanging out at the door. When he becomes overwhelm he often says he wants to go home. We then brainstormed how we could make it easier for him. They decided to prepare a video he could see the week before he came. We just happened to have a flip camera available to us for just an event. They decided a video of the group eating lunch together and saying their names and a greeting would make him feel welcome and know who is part of the group. The students will also make a point of talking to him about their lunch group and how they would like him to join them on Friday.
We then video taped an activity they could do with D during the next session, called conversational scaffolding. He is using this activity in his speech therapy sessions to build his conversation skills, so it should be something he is familiar with. It’s basically placing slips of paper down on the table to represent questions, comments, and topic changes. When the students look back on their conversation they can see who participated and in what way. We used the same activity with the circle of friends group to give them practice and some understanding of how they can help D. First we talked about activities D was likely to be interested in and found some of them were similar to their interests like books and movies. We then gave it a try. It wasn’t long before it was going at a pretty fast rate. We had a couple of students that needed more thinking time. The paper trail showed a couple of students asking all the questions, frequent topic changes, and some interruptions before questions were answered. We talked about being responsible listeners during a conversation, and how to include people who didn’t get a chance to enter the conversation. We pointed out that some people need more thinking time and may not feel comfortable talking if the topic changed too often. We then talked about how D may particularly needed more time to respond and would get lost with too many topic changes. They agreed it would have to go at a slower rate. Before they left, they said the activity was a lot of fun. This always amazes me. Sometimes there is a lot of value in just paper.