Sympathy for the Kragle

This week I took my son to see The Lego Movie. We loved it and as I watched it I couldn't help but see some archetypes that will be familiar to many of the kids who participate in Kids Cooperate social groups.  [Possible Spoiler Alert] The pantheon of bad guys is headed by President Business who, frustrated with the disorder of lego land devises a plan to freeze them all in place using his army of micromanaging machines led by Bad Cop, one of the most three dimensional and interesting characters who struggles with wild mood swings. Starting to sound familiar?

The hero of the story is Emmett, a lego guy who struggles to fit in and be accepted despite his best effort to listen to what his peers are listening to, watch what they are watching, and talk about what they are talking about. His attempts to fit in are perceived by his peers as something less than authentic, and he is ostracized in a way that is all the more painful because he is "doing everything right". Starting to sound familiar?  

In the end it is, ironically, Emmett's willingness to accept the ways he is different which reveals the way he is the same as everyone else in that each character harbors unique quirks of character that compliment each other. This should sound familiar if you have ever heard me talk about the Kids Cooperate philosophy of practice.  

Our curriculum is built around the dialectic idea that a person has to unconditionally accept themselves as they are before change is possible.  That is the principle behind the way curriculum is developed to support a space where the group members can share and find community in their idiosyncrasies, while gaining greater awareness of their social emotional strengths and challenges and learning tools to reach across what separates them from their peers in order to make connections. 


In the Kids Cooperate social groups there has been a lot of interest in magic tricks lately. We have a cheap magic trick set that requires actual magic powers to pull off any believable tricks with, but that hasn't stifled interest or enthusiasm for learning and performing tricks. 

For kids who are challenged by the pragmatics of peer social interaction because of Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, or something else, magic tricks represent a social currency whose value rarely fluctuates. While typical social interactions can be unpredictable, the performance of a magic trick follows a clear and agreed upon social script that is followed explicitly.

I also have a theory that children on the Autism Spectrum enjoy magic for an opposite reason than of their neurotypical peers. While many people are thrilled by the mystery of the magic trick, kids who find every day social interaction mystifying are thrilled instead by the part of the magic trick social script in which the curtain is pulled back and the mechanics of the illusion is revealed. "A magician does not reveal their tricks" is not a response that is gracefully accepted to questions about how a trick was done in the Kids Cooperate social skills groups.

Here is a fun and simple card trick that is impressive and easy to master: 


As I was sitting in a training this morning, a particular metaphor about the Social Sensory Cognition Process came into focus for me. As parents, and educators, we work hard to help our children build maps of the social landscape around them. A map of course, is a tool that represents the relationship of things to each other, most often places. The social maps we create for our children is a reference tool for them to look to to avoid dangers that we ourselves have discovered the hard way, and to take the path we hope will lead to happiness which is sometimes but not always the one of least resistance. 

But here's the thing.

A map is useless if you can't locate yourself on it. 

That, in a nutshell is why the central focus of the processes we use in our social groups is to bring focus to the three social senses that create the possibility for authentic social connection. In other words, the work of the social sensory process is to bring the child's awareness to the space they are present in, and that of those around them. 

You can hear me talk ad nauseum about the Social Sensory Process here: 

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