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How to Teach Perspective Taking

Speech and Language Staff
January 23, 2019

Perspective taking is a term used to describe a set of skills one must have in order to effectively communicate with others in the environment. When trying to understand the complexities of social participation, perspective taking can be broken down into four different steps.

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These four steps of perspective taking are part of an internal dialogue that can be specifically taught to children who struggle with taking the perspective of others.  Social regulation, or regulating one’s own behavior so as to encourage other people to have “normal” thoughts about them, is at the heart of social participation. We each participate socially just when we are in the presence of others, even when we are not talking to them!

Four steps to teach perspective taking

  1. When you come into my space, I have a little thought about you and you have a little thought about me. This can be described more explicitly to a child or adolescent learning perspective taking by using the elevator example. When you are in an elevator, and another person joins you, a little thought immediately pops into your head. It can be a benign thought, but you still have a thought about that person nonetheless. And remember, the person who just stepped on to the elevator is having their own little thought about you.
  2. I wonder, “Why are you near me?,” “What is your purpose for being near me?” “Is it because you are just sharing the space, do you intend to talk to me or do you intend to harm me?” I have to consider all of these things in order to keep me safe around people as well as to predict what will happen next. A person can use different clues to predict what the person will do. How are they acting? What is their facial expression? Are they turning towards me? Making eye contact with me? We use many nonverbal clues to help us predict what will happen next.
  3. Since we have thoughts about each other, I wonder what you are thinking about me. We want to be aware that other people are having thoughts about us. If you understand that people are having thoughts about each other, you can reflect on what type of thoughts people are having about you.
  4. To keep you thinking about the way I would like you to think about me, I monitor and possibly modify my behavior to keep you thinking about me the way I want you to think about me. This idea of modifying behavior based on what people are thinking about you is the heart of perspective taking.

Perspective taking is one of the topics covered in our social communication groups. Contact us today to find out how your child can participate in one of these groups to address perspective taking.

Reference

Winner, M.G. (2015, January). Social behavior starts with social thought: The four steps of perspective taking. Retrieved from https://www.socialthinking.com/resources.

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