Filter the Anger: A hands-on social skills activity to help kids with autism to manage angry verbal outbursts

A hands-on activity for social skill training and anger management for children on the autism spectrum. It consists of dozens of strips of paper with angry thoughts on them. The child manually sorts through them to determine which are okay to say and which ones to “filter.”

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:

You can preview the materials farther down in this post. 

To download the kit,  follow this link HERE.

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.

social skills card game for kids with Asperger's

Here is one of a set of 62 cards I made to help children with Asperger’s with social and emotional skills. To learn more, click on the picture.

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

In the kit, you get these different visuals which helps kids organize and sort out the angry thought strips.

Filter visual for use in the Filter The Anger anger management activity for children on the autism spectrum

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