Opening Gifts Social Story and Games
Opening gifts can be quite a challenging experience for children on the spectrum who have strong ideas about what they want and who also do not always filter strong feelings, particularly unpleasant ones. In order to prepare for my oldest son's 7th birthday party, we felt it was important to practice how to respond to a gift, particularly one we don't like. First, I created a social story which I read to all 3 boys before doing the two activities described below.
The following social story explains 4 steps to opening gifts: 1) Open card first; 2) open gift; 3) thank the person for gift; 4) say only positive things about gift.
First Game: Think it or Say it?
Explain that there are some things that are best left unsaid and to be thought only in our head. Show the two conversations bubbles and make sure it is clear that the one on the top is for phrases to only be thought and the one on the bottom is for phrases which can be said out loud.
Since we are working on improving social skills in regard to opening presents, write several “good” and “bad” phrases regarding a pretend present on paper and have children pick them out and then. . .
. . .have them place the phrase on the appropriate bubble as shown below:
One additional thing I included with the phrases were pictures of people's expressions. I had a grumpy face, a smiling face and a "blank" face. I acted out each expression while saying "thank you"in order to show how our expressions are believed more than our words. I had them put the appropriate expressions along with the phrases.
Second Game: Let's open presents!
I took the lesson one step further by creating a role play game involving opening pretend gifts. I purchased cheap boxes from a craft store and drew bows on them (in order to avoid having to worry with wrapping paper):
This activity may be done as a group or individually. When working with more than one child, place something desirable in one box and something undesirable/less desirable in the other. Read the social story first to help remind them how to open gifts then hand each child a gift. The goal is to have the child say “thank you” as genuinely as possible when they open the “bad” gift. Repeat the exercise enough times that all children have the opportunity to get both the “good” and “bad” gifts. (When working with one child, simply repeat the process and alternate when it will be good or bad.
|Example of "good" gifts (candy)|
|Example of "bad" gift (staples). Keep in mind that safety is important. I would not suggest staples for those under 3 or for those who tend to place items in their mouth.|
I changed the “bad” gift each time so that they were not getting used to reacting to just one bad item. Examples of "bad" things you could use are: buttons, a cotton ball, blank sticky note or anything lying around the house which is neutral and safe but boring. With my children, they not only enjoyed the process, they went from exclaiming, "Staples?!!!" for example to "Thank you" with a smile on their face. It is a fun activity for all as long as everyone has equal opportunity to open a "good" gift.