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The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations Review by Christine Field

Brenda Smith Myles, Mellissa Trautman, Ronda Schelvan
Autism Asperger Publishing Co.

A few years ago, my daughter began using the expression, "Get out!" In current colloquial context, it means something like, "You've got to be kidding me!" and is usually accompanied by pushing the other person on the shoulder. To someone from another country, the expression would seem to be a dismissal, like telling them to get out of your house. This is an example of the type of social situation that would be confusing to children with social-cognitive learning disabilities. According to the authors of this book, that includes autism, pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger Syndrome, nonverbal learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, semantic pragmatic disorder and hyperlexia.

These children can have trouble reading the verbal and nonverbal cues in social situations. The book was written to address this hidden curriculum of social interaction, and covers understand verbal communication as well as body language. It gives children strategies for success at school, home, in the community, the workplace and the legal system.

One teaching strategy used is that of a simulation. In a potential social situation, such as pushing in the hall as recess, the child is directed to: Examine the situation, brainstorm options to handle it, elaborate on potential consequences, make a list of choices, plan a strategy, and practice that strategy in a simulation. Characterized by the authors as a "low-tech intervention," this method can be used with any child likely to encounter new, potentially threatening situations. We have spoken several times with our teens and rehearsed their possible responses to being offered a drink at an underage party. As my husband says, "If it's predictable, it's preventable."

Other strategies in the book help children by practicing common social narratives, cartooning their responses to certain situations, providing the child with a "powercard" -a small card outlining responses as a reminder to the student, and more.

The last half of the book is taken up with listings of curriculum items. A bullet point list is given of things to remember is numerous situations, such as: airplane trips, bathrooms, birthday parties, friendships, telling jokes, going to the swimming pool and more. At the very end is a listing of figures of speech and idioms, likely to by misunderstood by the child with a social-cognitive learning disability.

I have met many kids with these kinds of issues. Much of their parent's instruction is done on the fly, as situations arise. This book can be a helpful life list for making sure the child knows how to respond to social situations and meet social challenges.

-- Product Review by Christine Field, Senior Correspondent, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, November, 2005