Chapter 1: Introductions
The first class session can be a stressful one. People are coming in, the instructor is setting their things up, and you don’t know what to expect from anyone or anything. A class like this can be especially stressful—you already know everyone in the course has something in common with you, but to what degree? And, will you all be treated the same or differently? One of the most common concerns I hear from students who take this class is that everyone in it might be lower functioning then themselves and it makes you feel like the teacher will never understand what you’re capable of, or that the teacher will be putting all their energy in addressing behavioral issues for those students who are lower and not a lot of learning won’t occur in class. This is understandable.
Another common complaint I will hear from students in this class is the feeling that the course isn’t needed very much at all and its really the parents making the student take the course. Perhaps you’ve heard the term, “neurotypical”. If you haven’t, here’s a definition:
Θ neu·ro·typ·i·cal /ˌn(y)o͝orōˈtipikəl/
adjective: neurotypical; adjective: neuro-typical
- not displaying or characterized by autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior.
“neurotypical individuals often assume that their experience of the world is either the only one or the only correct one”
Basically, the idea is that people on the autism spectrum are suggesting that perhaps the way that they perceive the world is the proper way to see things, and its people who are not on the spectrum are the ones that are misconceiving things. Who knows, perhaps they’re correct! I mean, if you look at American culture from a distance there are tons and tons of social rules, non-verbal expectations, and confusing phrases in our language that makes no sense at all! “I have all my ducks in a row?”, “he threw her under the bus?”, “I quit cold turkey?”, etc. There are tons. How is anyone supposed to expect all these statements to make any kind of logical sense!
The final student I often see in class is one that makes me especially sad—this is the one that really registered for the course because they are mainly hoping to make friends because they do feel lonely at times and are tired of just playing video games or watching YouTube videos by themselves alone all the time. This is especially sad to me because I think college should be a special time in students’ lives where they often make friendships that can last a lifetime—certainly that has been my own personal experience. I want college to be some of the best years of a persons life, not the worst!
On the positive side, students who are like this should have no fear as having taught this course for six years now, I have indeed found students do tend to form unique bonds and develop friendships that perhaps they were unable to form in other courses. I once had a student tell me, “I’ve found my tribe”. I absolutely loved that. And indeed, you may find that there are others in your class who look at the world and who have the exact same hobbies as you—just like members in a tribe—and what a wonderful experience that is! So, lets get started. Lets have our first Exercise!
Communication Exercise: Basic Introductions
After having everyone in class forming a circle, each student should answer the following questions:
- What are you studying here at the college?
- What do you like to do for
- What’s one unique thing about yourself?
- Why did you sing up for the class (be honest)?
Try to answer as honestly as you can. After everyone has answered the question, as a larger group answer the following questions:
- What are some of the things everyone had in common?
- What were some of the unique things about individuals you found especially interesting?
- What are your impressions of everyone now compared to what you thought about them before the class started today? What is your impression of the instructor (s) after this first exercise?
The next activity we will do in class today is setting of ground rules. These are things that are universally agreed upon by everyone in the class to adhere to in an effort to promote an environment that is safe and welcoming. The ground rules are entirely up to everyone in the class, but some that have come up in the class include:
- Not sharing personal things about others in class
- Staying off phones when class is happening (during breaks and before/after class is okay)
- Not touching others things without their permission
- Not touching other people (even innocently) without their permission
- Not swearing at other people directly in class and only swearing if its very important to the story (keep it to a minimum)
- Use a peace hand signal if someone is talking too much or monopolizing the conversation
- Not talking when other people are talking and not interrupting when someone else is talking
- Eat only if you have to, but avoid loud foods. Drinks are okay if not noisy.
- Music and videos okay to watch on breaks (headphones only) or before/after class
- Always try to be respectful of others
- If you need to leave classroom, you don’t have to tell the teacher, but do it quietly and not make a scene
- Respect the teachers when they are lecturing or talking
- No sleeping in class
- No showing up late to class or leaving early from class unless absolutely necessary
After everyone has had a chance to share their ground rule expectations and everyone is in agreement, the instructor should write these down and make copies for the next class as a reminder of the things everyone agreed to follow.
Lets take some time now and look at the syllabus for this course. It is housed in the Appendix of this book. Please take some time to look at it, and go over it with your instructor. This will likely take at least 30 minutes in class to do, so please be patient!
Communication Exercise: Human Bingo
Now that we’ve started to get to know each other a little, lets focus on better understanding each other better. The second activity we will do is called, “Human Bingo”. For this, you will each start with a bingo card which is also housed in the Appendix as well as pasted here:
|Someone who loves karaoke||Someone who comes from a large family||Someone who doesn’t like to dance||Someone who enjoys coffee||Someone who enjoys sports|
Plays an instrument
|Someone who likes to go shopping||Someone who tells a good joke||Someone who is very prompt||Someone who is very disorganized|
|Someone who works part-time||Someone who moved here recently||Someone who likes sushi||Someone who likes chocolate||Someone who is wearing blue|
|Someone who knows more than one language||Someone who is spontaneous||Someone who considers themselves shy||Someone who likes video games||Someone who is an only child|
|Someone who is undecided on major||Someone who has traveled abroad||Someone who is taking their first class in college||Someone who loves the city||Someone who loves science fiction|
Find one individual person in your class who fits into each of the descriptions and have them sign their first name below the statement. You can only have one person sign each square! Repeat this exercise until you reach a Bingo. After you have finished, discuss in the group:
- What was that activity like?
- Did you find it hard to go up to people you didn’t know? Easy?
- Which squares were the hardest to fill? The easiest?
At this point the class is likely almost over, so its time to review some of the most essential expectations of the course. As a reminder, each week, each student will receive a email question from the instructor they are expected to answer–just reply to the instructors question and answer within 2 to 3 sentences the answer. In addition, you will also have a worksheet to complete week to week as well. This worksheet is housed in the Appendix B: Worksheet Assignments and is due at the start of class. For this weeks Worksheet, you should fill it out with someone who knows you well–a parent, best friend, brother/sister, person you’re in a relationship, etc. Talk to anyone who knows you well. Both of these assignments will be due at the start of class next week.
Your email question which you should apply to is pasted below. See you next week!
Email Question #1:
I’d like to know what social skill you would especially like to work on this semester that you think you could use some work on. For example, previous skills students have asked to work on include: reading non-verbal skills better, learning to open up more and not keeping to myself, making more friends, not dominating conversations, managing anxiety better, knowing how to listen more, expressing feelings better, understanding romantic relationships better, and interviewing better.
So, what skill would be most important to you for working on this semester? And why? Please write a few sentences explaining your thoughts by replying to this email.
Part I Instructions: the goal of this course is to make it as useful and effective to you as possible. To help us in doing so, please rate on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being low, 10 high) how important it is to you we cover the following topics throughout the semester. Write your numbers next to each statement.
- Developing friendships
- Maintaining relationships
- Managing anxiety
- Managing depression
- Confrontation skills
- Recognizing emotions
- Understanding romantic relationships
- Interviewing skills
- Improving self-disclosure skills
- Expressing feelings and emotions
- Listening skills
- Responding with understanding and empathy better
- Understanding deeper meaning of conversations
- Other ______________________________________
- Other ______________________________________
- Other ______________________________________
Part II instructions: Now, speak with someone who knows you very well. This could be a parent, best friend, sibling, whoever, and ask them their thoughts on the following questions:
1. I think a real strength of your personality and communication is what:
2. I think one area of your personality and communication you could improve upon is:
3. Another area you could also improve upon is:
4. Some ideas on how we could work together in improving these skills might be to:
TO THE STUDENT ONLY: In addition to the all things we talked about in this assignment, if there was but one goal or social skill you would seek to improve upon above all others, what would it be?