We were fortunate to have Lindsay Giroux, M.Ed. present a webinar  about, Fostering Friendships to Support Social-Emotional Learning on August 16, 2017. Many of the participants had questions that we were unable to ask the presenter.  She was kind enough to answer them and they are posted below.  Here is a link to the recording:  Fostering Friendships to Support Social-Emotional Learning in Early Childhood Programs

Click here to:  Download the PowerPoint Slides

Handouts: Handout_Acronym Cheat Sheet


Q.1. How can you get parents to understand how important social emotional learning is?

How can you get parents onboard, especially if cultural believe is a barrier?

How we can get parents involved in helping kids to gain these skills?

A.1. Share information about social-emotional learning with families. What we spend our time doing or talking about shows a lot about what we value. Including a social-emotional tip in a newsletter or sending home specific family resources on social-emotional development helps to share that it is important, too!
Some of my favorite social-emotional specific family resources are available here: http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/communities/families.htm

For families who believe that academic skills are the only objective of early education, it can help for families to understand the context of the day- understanding how much interaction and social skills are needed to be able to focus at group time, to learn through play with other children, and to explore the classroom. The social learning will support the child in being able to participate and learn the academics.


Q.2. What if a child is not receptive to making friends? How do we help introverts?

What is a way to help the child who may not want to participate?

A.2. Some children are more introverted or prefer to be more solitary, so practicing these friendship skills can be a little less comfortable for them. Choosing peers carefully for friendship skill practice, teaching a specific script for interacting with a friend, using play schemes that involve children taking on roles (waitress and chef in dramatic play), and class jobs can help get children practicing some of these skills in ways that can be more comfortable or more routine for children. For some children, practicing the skill with a grown up they are connected to can be a first step, or even practicing things like a gentle touch or asking to play with a puppet or stuffed animal can be easier than a peer. You can then work up to working with you and one peer who you think might be receptive to the child’s attempts.


Q.3. How can you encourage children to branch out and play with other children? Especially if they have that one friend they want to play with all day, every day.

A.3. Planned partner activities can be helpful because you might assign partners, have children choose partners, have them choose partners by choosing popsicle sticks out of a jar, or finding a partner with the same color shoes. You can set these opportunities up to support children in trying activities with other children that they wouldn’t usually play with.

Observing the children and how they interact can also help you figure out who might be a likely second playmate. For example, if E only wants to play with J, and you observe that J is very good at giving play ideas and E tends to follow along with J’s plan, you might notice that another child who is similar in temperament to J might be a good partner for practicing friendship skills. You can also think about doing some small group activities with E and J and a third peer to foster their friendships in the context of including other children.


Q.4. Can these ideas be adapted for toddlers while remaining age appropriate?

A.4. For toddlers, I would choose specific skills, just like we discussed for preK. Gentle touches and asking for a turn (whether with words or signs or visuals) can be useful friendship skills for toddlers. Playing games that require gentle touches, like holding hands for Row Row Row Your Boat, can be very appropriate for toddlers and meet the same idea. The scaffolding and planning for toddler friendship skills will be similar. DAPPER with lots of modeling and prompting and celebrating will help toddlers begin to do these friendly things as well. Toddlers also love seeing their picture, so books of toddlers engaging appropriately with each other can be a real meaningful way to talk about what friendship looks like in the classroom.


Q.5. How are they adaptable for children with special needs?

A.5. Adaptations will depend on the child’s individual needs but many of the supports we discussed in the webinar can be useful. For example, having visuals to support the use of the skill, and practicing in smaller groups. Using social stories about “How to ask a friend to play” or “How to Give a Compliment” can also be useful if a child responds well to social stories or scripts. Additionally, video modeling can be useful for children with special needs. Making a short video of a friendship skill interaction can show children how to do a particular friendship skill. For children who are less verbal, using the visuals or teaching signs and gestures can be helpful in giving them a “voice” to do the friendship skills. Teaching the signs and gestures to all children will ensure that peers understand the attempts.


Q.6. What would you say in response to a child who says, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore!”

A.6. Just like in the “What do we really mean?” activity, I would think about the intent. Usually that is a child’s way of saying, “I feel really sad or angry about what just happened.” I typically respond by describing what happened, acknowledging the feeling, and helping the child to restate the problem in more appropriate terms. Then I can help the children problem solve or use a visual like the How Can I Help You Feel Better card.

For example, “You told her you didn’t want to be her friend. Your face looks like this (copy child’s expression). You seem angry that she ran away from you. You can tell her, ‘I feel angry when you run away when I’m trying to talk to you.”” I support the child in sharing the message in a more appropriate way and then help with problem solving.


Q.7. How do you incorporate friendship between children with autism and children without?

A.7. A few things have been helpful:

Making a social story or a picture script of the interaction or activity can be helpful for a child with autism. For example, in friendship art where two children hold the box and roll a marble through paint back and forth in the box, having picture steps to explain it ahead of time can be helpful to encourage children to be successful.

If a child with autism has restricted interests, planning some friendship activities that incorporate interests can be helpful (e.g., friendship painting using trains instead of marbles). Most children are more excited when the activities engage their interests.
Doing a friendship game or activity several times can be really useful. It becomes more routine for both children, so they know what to expect.

Of course, all children with autism are different, so knowing the child will help to pick appropriate activities and structure them with peers for practice.