Perspective taking is one of the biggest social skills to focus on in social language skill development.  Perspective taking happens when you realize that your words, actions and behaviors affect the thoughts and feelings of those with whom you interact. You adjust your language and behavior during interactions with others in consideration of a variety of factors, such as: point of view, background, age, culture, environment, and situation.

Perspective taking requires you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, considering what that person might think, feel or do in that situation.  Therefore, in understanding what someone else’s motives might be in any given situation, one can adjust their own behavior to create smoother interactions based on understanding and empathy. 

Perspective taking is crucial for maintaining relationships and having positive interactions; whether it is friendships, acquaintances, or strangers. What we are developing with perspective taking is called theory of mind.  Having a theory of mind allows us to understand that others have unique beliefs and desires that are different from our own, enabling us to engage in daily social interaction as we interpret the mental states and infer the behaviors of those around us (Premack & Woodruff, 1978).

Perspective Taking In Toddlers 

Toddlers often confuse their perspective with others.  Here are a few things you can do to help a toddler develop the ability to see another person’s perspective. 

  • Point out the emotions of others. When another child is crying, point it out and talk about how that child feels and why they feel that way. This is especially important if the child caused the other child to be upset.
  • When you read, talk about how the characters are feeling. After they identify the emotions, talk about why the character feels that way and how they know.
  • Talk about your own emotions. Label your own emotions to the child throughout the day. Talk about why you feel the emotion. If you have negative emotions, talk about what would make you feel better.
  • Help the child problem-solve situations to help someone feel better. If another child is upset, ask the child what he could do to help that person. Give them some ideas if they have difficulty thinking of things on their own.

Perspective Taking In Grades K-2 

Children at this age are still developing basic perspective taking skills.  They can determine the emotion behind an action, such as a child is crying because they are sad; but they are not likely to be able to tell you why the child is sad. 

Here are a few things you can do to help a child at this age develop the ability to see another person’s perspective.

  • When the child does something that causes strong emotions in another child, point out the other child’s reaction. Talk about the other child’s emotions, why they are feeling that way, and how that child’s actions caused that emotion to occur.
  • Ask the child how they would feel if they were in the other child’s situation. For example, if they take a toy away from another child, ask them how they would feel if the other child took their toy from them. Help them identify the emotion they would feel and then explain that the other child feels the same way.
  • While reading books, help the child make guesses for why the characters did certain actions. Talk about the motivation behind behaviors by connecting the behavior or action to an emotion. Then, talk about why the character would have felt that emotion.

Perspective Taking In Grades 3-5

Children at this age begin to develop the understanding that everyone sees situations from a different perspective and that people might misinterpret what is going on in a given situation. For example, if a child walks up and hits another child on the back, they would understand that the child was just saying hello and not hitting them out of anger. Kids at this age also start to understand that a person may be hiding their true feelings. For example, if a child says they are ok but they have tears in their eyes, the child would understand that they are not really ok. 

Here are a few things you can do to help a child at this age develop the ability to see another person’s perspective.

  • When reading a story with multiple characters, help the child map out how each character interpreted an event or situation. Write down each character’s name and then write what each character was thinking or feeling during the situation. Help them discover differences between the different characters’ perspectives by pointing out when one character had different information than the others, and how that created different responses.
  • If the child with becomes surprised by someone’s reaction to something they did, help them describe how the other person may have felt during the situation and help them put themself in the other person’s situation. Help the child to understand what the other person’s reaction was based on.
  • Help the child resolve conflicts by examining the perspective of each participant in the conflict and then come up with a solution that will offer a compromise for all perspectives. For example: sharing, taking turns, or using words to explain the situation more thoroughly.
  • Talk to the child about reading body language and using perspective-taking to determine if someone is hiding their true feelings. Talk about sarcasm and figurative language as ways the people may say one thing but mean something else.

Perspective Taking In Grades 6-8

Kids at this age are developing the ability to understand someone else’s thoughts, feelings, and motives in more complex ways. They are also beginning to understand that people often have multiple motives for their behavior and sometimes those motives are conflicting. Here are a few things you can do to help a young person at this age to develop the ability to see another person’s perspective.

  • Ask the young person to think about the motives that a character has for certain actions. Explore all of the motives that the character has and talk about if any of the motives conflict with each other.
  • Ask them about their own motives for certain behaviors. Explore all motives, including conflicting motives. Talk with them about how one makes a decision when they have conflicting motives (such as using a pro/con list).
  • If they express confusion or concern over a decision that someone else has made, help them write down the different motives that the person had that led them to make that decision. Ask the young person if they would have made the same decision in that situation or if they would have chosen something else. Explain to them that we all have the right to make our choices based on our own opinions, feelings, and experiences, that sometimes we disagree on the best plan of action, and that it’s ok to disagree with others.  

Perspective Taking In Grades 9-12

Young people at this age begin to understand that a person’s culture and environment impact their personality, behavior, and perspectives. They begin to see how we are all a product of our environment and that past events and present circumstances all affect how we see the world. For example, young adults may begin to see that a person who has always been discriminated against is more likely to assume he’s being discriminated against than someone who has never known discrimination.

These young adults are also beginning to understand that people may not always be fully aware of why they act the way they do. They may be acting a certain way because they were brought up that way or they are repressing some feelings that they don’t want to deal with. Here are a few things you can do to help a young person at this age to develop the ability to see another person’s perspective.

  • Talk with the young person about how differences among cultures may impact a person’s behavior. 
  • Read about people from other countries. Talk about how the daily lives of people from other cultures are different than the theirs, and discuss how each person’s environment impacts their daily life differently.
  • Read about people who have different life experiences. Read about others who have different socio-economic standings, face adversity or have easier experiences in life, and how that shapes perspectives, actions and choices. You can discuss how such experiences shape or change a person, and how that person’s perspective is subsequently different as a result.
  • Discuss how historical events may have changed a certain cultural group’s behaviors, thoughts, or motivations. For example, you can talk about how getting the right to vote changed women’s behaviors and attitudes or how slavery of African-Americans in America affected their behaviors and attitudes.

Here are some resources that you may find helpful:

Everyday Speech: A membership website created by a speech therapist that has a comprehensive curriculum of social language skills, including videos, downloadable resources and interactive activities. 

Boom Cards: Miss D’s Autism Homeroom: Making social inferences, perspective taking, sarcasm, identifying emotions, social behavior and scenarios.

Apps

Social Stories Creator: This app contains 20+ social stories. You can create your own, share, receive, or print stories as well. You have the option to purchase social stories individually. $9.99

Between The Lines Advanced HD: There are 3 apps for different levels. The main focuses are listening skills, body language, and expressions. The app uses real videos, pictures, and voices for a variety of social situations. $15.99

Social Detective: This app is a companion to the “You are a Social Detective” book in Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking curriculum. It covers expected and unexpected behavior, understanding others’ comfortable and uncomfortable thoughts, social toolbox items, and smart guesses. $9.99 or $23.99 for all 3 levels.

Conversation Builder: A great app for conversation skills: turn-taking, initiating conversation, and staying on topic. Use in one-on-one sessions or in group therapy. There are 160 conversations to choose from and the student can either initiate or respond to conversations. $19.99 or $31.00 for both.

Let’s Be Social: Includes 20 social skills lessons with the ability to create your own lessons as well. The topics include personal interactions, navigating the community, school behavior, handling change, and social relationships. FREE – $9.99 upgrade.

There is a lot to do but we are here to help make it as fun and easy as possible!

At Vibe, our speech therapists are trained to work with children and adults of every age, and in every facet of speech and language.  We are experts in our field. The clinical and personal relationship we have with you is at the core of everything we do. From the resources we bring to support growth in communication, to the highly individualized therapy sessions. We offer collaborative partnerships with other providers, family and caregivers and we are committed to exceeding your expectations. We look forward to helping your child bring their best self into the world!

Contact Vibe Speech Therapy to learn more about how we can help you!