Here’s A Special Aspergers Solution: Social Behavior Mapping

Social Behavior Mapping Can Save Your Sanity!

How many parents are pulling their hair out from all the incident reports they are getting regarding their kid’s behavior in school?

How many Aspergers kids dread going to school because they don’t know what they are going to do wrong next?

How many teachers are having nightmares about their next school day because they don’t know how to handle what their Aspie students may be serving up today in terms of their behavior?

Today I’m going to share some autism spectrum facts and strategies that will make things a lot easier for you as a parent, teacher, or as an Asperger’s student.  Social behavior mapping contains these answers.

The Problem With Traditional Behavioral Interventions

As teachers and parents, we often approach children with Asperger’s with a purely behavioral approach.  In other words, if they do ‘x’, they will receive ‘y’ consequence.  The only problem is that children with Aspergers have average to above average IQ’s, and excellent verbal skills.  Their challenge is that they have gaps in connecting the dots of social expectations.

Unfortunately, we parents and teachers also assume that kids completely understand all the social rules and expectations of different situations.  Not so!

social behavior mapping

Young Traveler With His Map

The Solution: The Social Behavior Map

Cognitive behavior theory can be very helpful in teaching children with Asperger’s about  feelings, behavior, and consequences and how these things affect how others’ treat them.

Michelle Garcia Winner has developed a Social Behavior Map Template to help children, parents, and educators understand how this works:

Here’s an example of a social behavior map which you can download for free.  It takes up too much space to post on this article, but you’ll get a good idea of how it works.

Here are some of the core principles of Social Behavior Mapping, from Michelle Garcia Winner’s book, Thinking About You, Thinking About Me:

  1. Different environmental contexts command different behavioral expectations.  In other words, people are not expected to act exactly the same way across the day.  There are different expectations during teacher talk time versus small group work time.
  2. Context-specific behaviors are defined as expected (socially appropriate) or unexpected (socially inappropriate) through the eyes of the person who is interacting with the student.
  3. Behaviors, whether they are expected or unexpected, affect the emotional state of those who are in close proximity.
  4. Consequences occur not because of the behaviors themselves, but from the impact of these behaviors on others’ emotional states.
  5. The emotional state of the student is affected by the consequences he or she experiences.

Use The Social Behavior Map To Teach Expectations and Social Understanding

The beauty of using the social behavior mapping template is that it helps you show the child with Asperger’s the connection between how s/he acts, with how s/he feels, and how others treat them in response.

Fill Out The Social Behavior Map For Different Social Situations

Instead of talking about what is appropriate or not appropriate, talk about what is expected or unexpected.

For example: Being With Mom all Summer, would be the context or situation:

It’s important that Mom have a conversation with her child about what expected behaviors include:

Expected Behaviors Might Include:

Nice (use friendly words, show interest in her, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’, give her a compliment; smile at her; look at her when talking to her; follow directions; do nice things around the house without being told).

How They Make Others Feel:

Good, Happy Proud, Thrilled!

Consequences You Experience:

She compliments you, she does something nice for you, she returns nice words, a nice tone of voice, a smile, back to you!

How You Feel About Yourself:

Good, Proud, Happy

Make Sure that you review, with your child, What Unexpected Behaviors Are, How They Make Others Feel, Consequences Your Child May Experience, and How Your Child Feels About Her/Himself When Choosing An Unexpected Behaviors

Unexpected Behaviors:


Not Nice:

Unfriendly words, doesn’t show interest in her, doesn’t say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’, makes rude remarks; flat facial expression (not smiling); not looking at her; not thinking about what chores she might like me to do.

How Unexpected Behaviors Make Mom Feel:

Bad, frustrated, angry, worried you won’t ever get along with others.

Consequences You Experience

She ‘nags’ you to use more skills, she yells, she leaves the house, no special treats

How You Feel About Yourself

Bad, Angry, Upset

Once the map is filled out, and you and your child have an understanding of expected and unexpected behaviors, you can then review the social behavior map to process and reinforce these concepts.  Over time, you child will start understanding the connection between how s/he acts, how others treat her/him, and how others feel and s/he feels based on the behaviors s/he chooses.

Social Behavior Mapping: Connecting Behaviors, Emotions, and Cosequences Throughout The Day

Social Behavior Mapping (DVD)

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