Using Language to Get Attention Appropriately {ie. teaching interrupting}

Level 2 – Expressive Language

As a teacher it can sometimes feel like we have 300 little puppy dogs following us around all day constantly needing our help and attention. And guess what – you are one human and cannot give all that attention all dang day long. There are times in the day when you need to attend to something or someone else. In order to help our students turn into functionally independent adults – we have got to teach them to skill of interrupting appropriately. Language is an amazing tool because it can help us get attention whenever we want. Think about when a toddler first learns to talk. It’s all Mommy look here and Daddy what’s that? They have suddenly realized that whenever they move their little cute mouth – people pay attention. Our students are the same way. They know the power of language. However now it’s time to reign it in. It’s time to teach them when and where they can use this oh-so-powerful skill.

We want to teach our students who to interrupt appropriately. There are a lot of subtle and embedded rules related to interrupting. How long do you wait to talk after saying excuse me? Where should you tap someone when trying to get attention? When should you absolutely not interrupt? Our kids have to learn all of that. It’s complicated!

Use Social Stories.

Social stories are a great way to teach these social norms in a visual and structured way. In our Communication Social Story Set 1 – we have two great social stories included – I Don’t Interrupt and Asking Politely. Social stories are a great way to teach complex social skills in a way our learners can understand.The Autism Helper

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My new obsession is Social Story Adapted Books. We have one packet so far and many more in the works. I love this amazing combination of behavior management training and the interactive format of adapted books. Perfection! Our Communication Skills: Social Story Adapted Books have the perfect ones for teaching interrupting and how to use language to get attention. IMG_0787


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Use Visuals.

Use visuals to help your students get your attention. Sometimes a visual cue can help them approach you and ask for help or attention in an appropriate way. There are a variety of types of visuals you can use. Here are some from our Ultimate Packet of Behavior Management Visuals.

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Also use visuals to show when you are available for your student to talk to. Some students may not understand the social cues that signal “I am too busy to talk to you right now” and may need some additional cueing. This visual from the Ultimate Packet of Behavior Management Tools Set 2 can be laminated front to back and switched back and forth to signal to students when they can approach you.

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Model and Provide Corrective Feedback.

One of my students all time favorite games to play is called That’s SO Rude. We practice interrupting the right way and the wrong way. First the student gets to interrupt the wrong way which everyone finds devastatingly hilarious. My little punks go nuts running up to the pair pretending to talk screaming, “excuse me, excuse me!” and wildly tapping their friend on the shoulder. The crowd goes wild. It’s literally the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. Then everyone else says – “That’s SO rude!” We all take out our pretend remote controls and press rewind. The student retraces his steps and then practices interrupting in the appropriate way. This is an amazing way to target this skill in a fun and functional way. It’s a game but it’s working on behavior skills!





This post is part of the Cooking Up Communication Summer Series!

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