You’ve seen it in your Son-Rise Program Start-Up Manual! You’ve glanced at it on our website! It lurks in the corner of the classroom when you’ve been to programs at The Option Institute! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No….it’s The Son-Rise Program Developmental Model! And guess what? It’s here to help you. It’s here to guide you. It’s both your friend, and teacher. It will support you and guide your child on their social journey into our world…a world of meaningful relationships with other people…a world of friendships and peer groups…a  world of knowing how to communicate, how to socialize, how to initiate and how to follow…a world of social success!
Read this model, study this model, love this model, make friends with it, kiss it and hug it and know that without it, your Son-Rise Program is going to lack direction and clarity. Here is a simple step by step guide on how to use the model with your child.

1.)  Use it like a dictionary

Look at the overview of the five stages of social development (manual pages 16 and 17). Each box will take you through different skills that you can work on with your child. There are four areas to work on:
·         Eye contact and Non-verbal communication
·         Communication
·         Interactive Attention Span
·         Flexibility
The skills will range from stage one (basic social skills); right through to stage five (advanced social skills). Look in each box of the model to read each skill. It’s ok not to know what every skill means, if you use it like a dictionary, you will be able to look up an example of each skill to educate yourself. For example, if you are looking at stage one Eye contact and Non-Verbal Communication (manual page 16), take the first box under “Function of Eye Contact” Looks at others to start /continue an interaction. What does that mean? Go to page 18 in the manual  and you will find a  comprehensive explanation of stage one. Look up Looks at others to start /continue an interaction (the first skill:) and you will see a description of what that means (When you pause, your child makes eye contact to get you to start/re-start an activity). Continue to use this comprehensive explanation to familiarize yourself with each skill.

2.) Plotting my child

Creating a baseline for where your child is in their social development is going to be your next step. If you don’t know your current position, then you will not be able to get to where you want to go. You need a starting point. Using the overview once again (manual pages 16 & 17) you will want to go through each skill in each stage of each fundamental one by one and assess whether they have mastered the skill (acquired) or are still working on the skill (emerging). For your child to be acquired in a skill, they need to be doing it approximately 80% of the time. They also need to be doing it spontaneously as well as when you request from it them. For example, if we take that same skill looks at others to start / continue an interaction if they only do it when you ask them to then it’s not acquired. You will need to check out if you were to pause during the game, would they look to show you they want more? Would they start an interaction with eye contact or would they instead use a word or a non-verbal gesture?

3.) Setting Goals

Once you have practiced the art of understanding your developmental model and then gone on to plotting where your child is in the stages one through five on the overview (manual pages 16 & 17), you can now begin to select program goals to focus on with your child. Do not pick more than three or four goals at a time; this keeps things consistent and manageable for your team and your child. Look at all the areas that he/she hasn’t yet mastered (is emerging in) and circle the ones that would make the biggest difference to his play. Try to imagine him/her with other children his/her age. What would help him/her be more socially successful? For example, if he/she is in stage one in eye contact and stage three in everything else, then eye contact would be your primary goal. If he/she is in stage four for language but stage 2 for flexibility then pick a flexibility goal.

4.) Use your common sense

You may see some gaps along the way where your child is not doing a skill, say in stage one, but is really mostly in stage three. For example, he may be speaking in sentences, having two loop conversations and asking and answering questions (stage 3) and not physically moving others to get what he wants (stage one). Use your common sense to think about that. If my child has the ability to ask for what he wants, and easily uses language, he may not need to physically move others to get what he wants. So in that case, I wouldn’t necessarily pick that as my goal. If my child is 15 and interacting appropriately with a peer (stage 4) and he is not interacting around shared physical activities, such as tickles and squeezes (stage one) then I wouldn’t necessarily pick that as a goal because most 15 year olds don’t typically play tickles and squeezes.

5.) Have fun!

Enjoy using this tool with your team and your children. It doesn’t have to be perfect! Don‘t get too serious! Don’t push the goals onto your child! Invite your child to try these goals, show them that it’s fun to try and always remember to only challenge them when they are motivated. This way, they are far more likely to be successful with the goals you have picked. Once they have mastered one of your goals, pick another one!