In social skills training in schools and psychotherapy settings, young people on the autism spectrum often struggle with controlling angry verbal outbursts. The Filter the Anger Activity is designed to:
* Raise awareness of okay vs. not-okay things to say when you are mad
*Introduce and reinforce the idea that thoughts can be “filtered” before they are turned into words.
How to create the materials for this activity:
Find the Upset Thought Strips shown below all the text on this page. Copy and paste each onto your desktop (copying them onto a blank powerpoint works well). Sort through the upset statements and remove any that you think might be too strong for your particular participants. Print them out, cut them into strips, and laminate them. Add your own upset word statements as you see fit. In the same manner, print out the visuals for “Filter These Out” and “You can say these.” Print them on cardstock and then cut them out. Laminating them helps.
Sample introduction to this activity:
“When we are upset, we can have many, many upsetting thoughts going through their mind, very quickly. The thoughts can be so many, and so powerful, that they can “escape” out of your mouth if you are not careful. Your mind has a filter in it, to help us to say the right things, instead of every one of our thoughts to rush out of our mouths.”
(Now describe a filter; depends on knowledge level of participants. Show them the filter visual)
“There are different kinds of filters.” (have them name some: coffee filter, water filter, oil filter, etc. If you have a prop to demonstrate a filter now, that is good—try a colander, a coffee filter, etc)
“You can’t see the filter in your brain, but the way it works is kind of the same. It is especially important to use your brain’s filter when you are upset or angry, so that you say things that are good, and get you help, and so you avoid saying things that frighten, confuse or anger other people.”
How to use the upset thought strips: On a big table or on the floor, have the participant(s) sort the statements into things that are okay to say, sometimes okay to say, and almost never okay to say. Use the “Filter These Out” and “You can say these” visuals to help them with the sorting.
Usually, the child will spontaneously start talking about times they made unfiltered angry statements. This provides opportunities for learning and adds a visual dimension that is very helpful.
Variations: You, the adult, can try acting out the role of an upset person who is not succeeding in filtering his words. Ask the young participants to help you to filter what you say. Ask them to offer you alternative ways to express your upset feelings.
This is a good teaching/therapy technique for social skills training for kids with Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders. I hope you find it helpful. I would appreciate it if you could use the Comments space to provide feedback.
Joel Shaul, LCSW