Thursday, November 3, 2022

November SEL Focus - Social Awareness

By Erin Peace, LCSW, RPT: ACE Academy School Counselor

Over the last two years, we have seen an increased need to coach students on how to practice social awareness. CASEL defines social awareness as "the abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including

those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, & contexts. This includes the capacities to feel compassion for others, understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings, and recognize family, school, and community resources and supports."

Giftedness and Social Awareness

The spectrum of experiences among gifted individuals spans a wide range, and every child will have different perceptions about their ability to empathize with others. One commonality among gifted students, however, includes their asynchronous development compared to neurotypical individuals: although a gifted 7-year-old may cognitively present as a 12-year-old, he may present socially or emotionally as a 4-year-old. This experience can prove confusing not just for the gifted individual, but for the people interacting with the student.

Due to the nature of the gifted brain, gifted students also experience emotions intensely, and this can result in both deep empathy for others and also difficulty controlling emotions, thereby impacting a person's ability to perspective-take and connect with others. By normalizing this experience, we can help our gifted students regulate their emotions in order to take others' perspectives and listen non-judgmentally.

Empathy and Social Awareness

The ACE No Place for Hate Committee has already done a wonderful job this year of promoting activities and stories about diversity and respect in the classroom. As students better understand empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another), they are able to build on that foundation and learn how to listen to one another without judgment, how to read people's body language, and how to imagine others' experiences. I encourage you to be intentional about asking questions on perspective-taking after interacting with others or watching a movie together as a family: What do you think that person/character is feeling? Have you ever felt this way? How would you want to be treated if you felt this way?

You can also watch the video above to start a conversation with your child about empathy, and how they can incorporate this skill into their routine. As students strengthen their capacity to take others' perspectives, we can help students address behaviors that show up frequently among our gifted children: interrupting peers, inflexibility, the inability to manage losing or unfairness, and/or a lack of reciprocity. These skills can be framed through a growth mindset lens: although you may not know how to listen without judgment yet, we will learn how to do so together. You can always remind your child that their brain is flexible due to neuroplasticity and can learn new skills.

As with any SEL skill, your student's social awareness skills will also depend on how you model these skills explicitly to your child.

Executive Functioning and Giftedness

by: Erin Peace, LCSW, RPT School Counselor As we settle back into our routine for the school year, many of us emphasize setting resolutions ...