Here I describe a simple method to help children with Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders to increase awareness of problem thoughts and beliefs. ( Please start by reviewing an earlier post which introduces cognitive behavioral therapy CBT helps people to identify and modify the dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs that adversely affect emotions and behavior. By introducing appealing visual components to CBT, you can make it much more engaging and effective for children with autism spectrum disorders, who are often “visual learners.”
How to make the Poison and Antidote Thought Bubbles:
Click on each of the images below. Allow the image to open in another window. Copy it to your desktop and print, in color. Cut them out. Laminate them if you can; otherwise, print them on cardstock.
Various ways to use the CBT thought bubbles:
Once you have introduced the concept of Poison Thoughts and Antidote Thoughts you can use them in a variety of ways. For example:
1. Make a “Poison Thought Game.” Scatter the thought bubbles in a jumble all over the floor. Say something like this: “We’re going to do a kind of matching game. These red thought bubbles are different kinds of thoughts that make people upset. The green ones help to fight the red ones. See if you can find green ones to match up with each of the red ones.” There are some Antidote Thought bubbles that match more than one Poison Thought; this does not have to be exact.
2. Play “Hunt for your Poison Thoughts.” Say something like: “Each person has certain Poison Thoughts that bother them more than other ones. Which ones bother you the most? Which Antidote Thoughts do you need to fight them?” You can do this activity by either scattering the thought bubbles around the floor, or taping them up to a wall, or else by holding them up one at a time in sequence for the child/ children to look at.
3. Fill out the blank thought bubbles. The pre-written thought bubbles cover many of the most common problem thoughts and beliefs affecting children with Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders. I provided blank thought bubbles to allow kids to customize their Poison and Antidote thoughts. I suggest that you print out a lot of these blank ones on paper and keep them handy to help children sort out their problem thoughts. I find that having these thought bubbles in large format often works better than having kids write small on conventional CBT thought record sheets.
Please have a look at these other blog posts describing visual methods for doing CBT with kids on the autism spectrum:
Help the Upset Person: A CBT Group Game
Filter the anger: A hands-on CBT activity for teaching functional verbal responses to anger