by Carrie Hanvy, MA, BCBA, LABA – Northeast Arc’s Spotlight Program

“That’s not appropriate behavior” is a statement that many of those who receive social support in schools or homes are reminded often. The terms “appropriate” and “inappropriate” have become default words in the world of social skills. Recently there have been other terminology coined that take a step away from language that may have an undercurrent of judgment.

The terms “appreciate” and “potentially upsetting/offensive/embarrassing, etc….” are the new vernacular used at The Spotlight Program. In thinking of the value of words and the omnipresence of perspective taking these new terms cannot only seamlessly replace “appropriate” and its counterpart, but also can provide an innovative and socially valuable alternative.

 The Spotlight Model uses improv acting and a variety of multi-media activities during the session. A favorite activity is a YouTube share or a model day “show and tell.” Empowering individuals to share on their high-interest topics creates a space for the individual to be an expert. With support an individual practices their public speaking and presentation skills while sharing their interest to an audience that is supported in how to be a respectful observer. An individual is encouraged to share a video that others would appreciate as funny, interesting, novel or informative. After the share the group is encouraged to speak to why they appreciated the video. Should the content of the video have the potential to be upsetting, embarrassing, uncomfortable, or offensive, it is described as so. By using descriptive specific language it creates space for conversation.

A group member selected a YouTube video “America’s Most Haunted Houses” – a high interest of the individual. During the pre-screening the group member and counselor were able to have a conversation where the counselor acknowledged that she “appreciated [the individual’s] expertise in haunted houses, but other members might find it potentially scary.” The conversation was void of judgment, but rather enriched with perspective taking, valuing their interest and creating an opportunity for empathy. By simply changing two words, dozens of opportunities are then presented for social growth. 

That is something many can appreciate.

To learn more about Northeast Arc’s Spotlight Program, click here.