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friend fileCreate a friend file, a tool for social integration is a strategy created by Michelle Garcia Winners to facilitate interactive perspective taking.    Initiating conversations can be challenging for many children with various isms. Creating friend files did wonders for my son when learning how to have conversations.  He created mental files to help remember information about others.

Memory is Crucial to Sustain Social Relationships

According to Winners, the use of memory in creating and sustaining social relationships is crucial.  Creating friend files guides those with isms through their exploration of the use of memory in forming relations with others.

“Getting to know someone else means you have to store information in a file in your brain,” says Winners. “You have to work at remembering to put the information into your brain. Then, the next time you see that person, you can brainstorm, which means when you think hard about that person you will be able to open the file about them.”

Friend File Exercise

You can create friend files through a worksheet Winners found in her book, “Thinking about You, Thinking about Me”.  This book is a wonderful resource full of strategies for persons with social cognitive deficits.

The “creating friend files” exercise takes you through remembering three things about a friend and placing it in the file in the brain.  Below you will find a simple exercise on creating friend files.

Create a Mental Friend File

When the child sees that friend, he can visually pull that file from his head and initiate a conversation by bringing up one of those topics. For example, my friend likes to draw, critique movies, and hike.

Pull the Friend File

The next time I see him, I can visualize pulling the file from my brain so I can remember what he likes to do.  I can ask him if he has been working on an art project or ask about a recent movie he has seen and his thoughts on it, or if he has been hiking and where.

Gain More Information for Friend File

Once I start a conversation on one of these topics and he gives me information, I can ask further questions on that topic building on the conversation.  This takes practice, especially building on conversations by asking more questions.

I will put the information gathered into my friend file, so the next time I see my friend, I can ask more questions about that topic.  For example, if he has shared with me information about an art project he is working on and plans to enter into a contest, the next time I see him I can ask about the results of that contest.

Many kids with isms learn best by rote, repetition and consistency.  Role play with your child and practice, practice, practice.  Creating friend files is a great tool for success with social integration, communication, and perspective taking.

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Lori is the mom to a young adult on the spectrum, she created the documentary film, JJ's Journey, A Journey about Autism. She is earning a Master's Degree in Leadership, and certification in Spiritual Leadership and Direction.