Sharing is a social skill that we start teaching when children are as young as 1-2 years of age, but it continues over the years. To be successful in social interactions, we share more than just our toys and possessions. We share our stories, our thoughts, our ideas, and our feelings with others throughout our lives.
Our language skills impact how we are able to share and interact.
These practical tips for sharing will make your therapy more successful at building social language interaction skills while directly working on other speech/language goals.
Research shows that there are many factors that have an impact on sharing behavior: understanding of ownership, impulse control, and thinking about others’ perspectives, to name just a few.
How does this affect what we do in speech/language therapy and classrooms, especially with our autistic kids who are more likely to be bullied?
Tips for preschoolers to early elementary students
- Begin to teach sharing in activities with items that are not owned or possessed by either child, such as play sharing activities between two characters, working on pronouns his, hers, theirs.
- Practice sharing and turn-taking between children using similar objects that are not highly preferred by either, such as puzzles, and teach pronouns yours and mine.
- Have children request toys from each other during play rather than grabbing, teaching polite words such as “Can I?”, please, and thank you.
- Have children learn to wait for turns, teaching words like wait, short turn, and long turn.
- Start teaching perspective-taking skills by having them look at their peer and tell you how that child is feeling while waiting.
- Use a timer at first, if needed, but don’t stop there. Students need to learn to be able to share of their own accord rather than being told when to share (whether in words or timer use.)
- It is okay not to share everything! When we have new toys or very special items, we don’t always want to share. Just don’t bring them to school. At home, keep the special toys out of sight when friends come over or designate a nonshared toy for each sibling.
- Read stories and discuss how we feel when someone grabs something, when we are waiting too long, or when we don’t get a turn.
- Helpful books for this age range, that directly discuss sharing, are shown in the picture.
Tips for later elementary students to teens
At older ages, students have learned to share objects. Our autistic students may actually share too much, according to research, accepting unfair trades and giving away more than they keep. Students in these age ranges may have problems sharing more abstract items, even though they can share common items perfectly well at this point.
Sharing: Who Wins the Game?
This is often a problem, but there are some things that you can do.
- Begin with cooperative games where there are no losers and no winners.
- Teach concepts like having fun playing the game and co-operating.
- Use games where students don’t win, but they get to make predictions about what piece or color will win. They can even change their predictions along the way!
- Teach concepts such as first, then, next, and change.
- Play act sore losers and poor winners versus graceful ones with the game pieces. Talk about how that makes people feel and which type of player they would choose for the next game.
- Instead of congratulating and keeping track of the winners, give points for being kind/graceful winners or losers.
- Talk about if they enjoyed playing the game.
- Keep a chart of how many times your students politely played until the game was finished.
Join the Facebook group ‘Looks Like Language to Me’ to download the free social rules story to use with your students.
Sharing: Telling a Story
Make sure that your students are able to share personal narratives. You may be surprised at who has problems with this!
- Students who can only tell a fact about their weekend, rather than a cohesive story, may have problems having age-appropriate conversations with peers.
- Students who have problems clearly and quickly retelling a plot of a tv show, movie, or video game will be left out of these conversations.
- Students who aren’t able to share what they liked or disliked, and why, may not be able to actively participate in peer conversations about a movie, game or tv show.
Students who are both impulsive and unable to verbally share their feelings are also likely to be the students who disrupt games with physical reactions like storming out or throwing the game on the floor. Try the tips listed above as they may not have been able to learn this skill when younger.
Sharing Equally- or Being Fair
As mentioned before, autistic students are more likely to just be compliant and overshare, or accept less than their fair share, which can lead to being bullied.
This can cause difficulties for resolving conflicts in middle and high
school, where students often need to work in groups. Having the language to negotiate and stand up for ourselves is a functional skill that may need to be directly worked on.
Do your students have this problem? Want to read more?
Sharing skills, and what we are sharing, change over the years, but are an ever-present part of social interactions over a lifetime. The research is vast, but here are a few helpful articles to check out.
Mine or Yours? Development of Sharing in Toddlers in Relation to Ownership Understanding
This article has a great overview of some research on sharing and gives insight on
the development of sharing skills.
Young Brains Lack Skills for Sharing
This quick read gives information about the neurological skills needed for sharing.
Do Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Share Fairly and Reciprocally?
An in-depth research article that cites information about the possible roles of many neurological skills in sharing, including Theory Of Mind.
Research finds kids share best when it’s done by choice.
Another quick read that tells us that we need to teach children to make choices to share rather than making them share.