Our third group session focused on self-esteem and pro-social behavior. We did an activity called Gifts from the Heart (scroll down to second heading). We asked each of the boys to think of an imaginary gift they would like to give each of the classmates and to draw a picture of it (each boy would be drawing five pictures). They had to think of their peers' interests, likes, hobbies, etc in order to pick the right gift to give. We wanted them to choose a gift that "fit" that person, so the boys had to put their thinking caps on! They also were encouraged to be imaginative--the gifts could be something as simple as a food they like, or as big as something like a sports team, an amusement park, courage, safety, etc.
A lot of them were concerned with their artistic ability, but we assured them that the gift they chose was more important than how they drew it. A few of the boys had trouble thinking up gifts to give, so we encouraged them to ask their peers what they might like by modelling how they could ask. This was especially difficult for A, the student who has signs of an autistic spectrum disorder. A. did not want to participate in the activity, did not attempt to ask his peers what they might like gifts of and was very put off at the idea of doing so, and instead drew unrelated pictures for myself, Ms. B, his teacher, and his parents (note the lack of age-mate interaction). We did lots of modelling and encouragement, but A wanted nothing to do with the task... can't win them all. (there will be a future blog post coming about A).
Once the boys had finished the Van Gogh action, they took turns presenting their gifts to their classmates and explaining why they were choosing to give that gift. As they gave their gifts, we practiced turn-taking, using good manners (saying "thank you"), and patience. Some of the gifts were cats, Spongebob, Dragonball Z characters, money, Hot Cheetos (what is the obsession with these?), John Cena (a wrestler), hockey equipment, and art supplies. The boys were surprisingly thoughtful in their gifts, which was really exciting and refreshing, and were excited about the gifts that their classmates gave them. It was a great warm fuzzy activity, which was a much needed break after a relatively B-A-N-A-N-A-S week.