By Deb Browne, MS, CCC-SLP


The old adage “It’s the thought that counts” is a concise example of how thinking is a crucial part of social competency.

In Speech-Language at Brehm, we use this time of year to help students apply the principle of perspective taking to gift selection. The “friend file” activity, designed by SLP Michelle Winner in the social thinking curriculum, is used to directly connect the process of thinking about what our friends or relatives might like to choosing the perfect gift.

We start with a drawing of an actual file separated into four main categories: interests, goals and beliefs, home and family, and personal history. The friend or relative’s name is put on the “tab.” The friend file provides a concrete structure which students may use to better store information in memory about those they know. In group work, the paper friend file is also used as a platform for students to develop questions of their friends, scaffolding the process of initiating conversations.

Then the “shopping” begins either with catalogues or online; printed copies of the “gifts” are “wrapped” by taping onto a drawing of a gift box, with important steps noted, such as removing the price.

Over break, parents can reinforce these concepts in discussing how knowing about others went into their own gift giving, stating select concepts — such as the knowledge of someone’s career goal (he is working to be a nurse, so I got him a nurse ornament) — or other categories from the friend file.

During the Speech-Language final holiday party in social groups, the virtual gifts are given, providing opportunities to practice appropriate responses and other party rituals and manners. If the student really used perspective taking and gives the others a great gift, they will realize how it truly is the thought that counts in gift giving!