by Jenn O'Rourke, MS
Associate Program Manager, Child Services
Using previewing and supporting your child to build their own prediction skills can be a valuable tool when preparing them for a social situation or when entering a new environment. One of the primary goals of previewing is to reduce the amount of anxiety experienced by the individual prior to a new event or scenario. Giving your child information by helping them come up with their own mental image or ‘schema’ can help a child enter a new environment with limited surprises. Below are some ideas to help your child build their own prediction skills.
What information can we preview (for younger child)?
- To reduce an individual’s anxiety, help them come up with a mental image or ‘schema’ for what they can expect from the situation.
- Tell them what they can expect to see, hear, smell, feel, taste, etc.
- Describe what the sequence of events will be.
- Visual schedules and social stories are a great tool.
- Give them important, key information to help limit surprises.
- Preview clear expectations.
How can you help them PREDICT (for older child)?
As individuals get older, we want them to do their own preview. Instead of FEEDING the individual the information, help them figure out what questions they can ask and answer themselves to build their own prediction of the event.
- Ask them to consider if they’ve done similar things before. What was that like?
- What do they think is going to happen?
- What strategies have they used in the past to be successful in similar situations?
- What will the environment look like? Who will be there? Will it be hot or cold? Any smells? Will there be sounds?
- Have they experienced challenges in similar situations in the past? What strategies were helpful?
How can you communicate clear EXPECTATIONS?
- Communicate clearly with your child what is expected of them in this situation- not just what YOU expect, but what OTHER people expect based on social and maturity expectations.
- Make a list of the expectations, be as clear and concrete as possible.
- Help your child connect expectations in this situation to similar situations with similar expectations.
How can you collaborate to make plans?
- Normalize that things may not always go perfectly smoothly. It’s ok to need help.
- Brainstorm potential challenges ahead of time (but don’t dwell on it!).
- Identify specific strategies that you can use if you find yourself in a moment of challenge. Is there a quieter room? A secret signal?
- Practice and role play how your child can ask for help, from you or someone else in that situation.
- After a social situation or new event, review what happened with your child.
- Ask your child their perspective about how the event went. Your child might need specific questions like: What did you think of the food? How was the temperature? What did you talk about? Did you learn anything new about someone?
- Highlight successes, no success is too small: I noticed that you got stuck talking to boring Aunt Sue, you stuck with it! It was loud in there, I’m glad you asked for a break.
- If there were challenges, touch down on them briefly and talk through things you might be able to do next time to make the situation go better.