NOTE: Model units are in millimeters
This is a tool that is designed to be used with the Scales of Justice activity by Tony Attwood as described in The complete guide to Asperger's syndrome. As I sometimes struggle with social situations, I use an adapted version of this in my head to reflect on social situations. The Scales of Justice activity can be used to aid people who are on the Autism Spectrum with understanding the outcomes of social situations. This is described below in more depth with a section of the book.
Overview and Background
I intend that this Thing will help people on the spectrum understand certain "Why" 's about social interaction, like why they got suspended or told to stay in during recess time and what they could do in the future when confronted with similar situations.
Why I Made This
While I was reading the book, I thought that it would be helpful to have had this kind of help and I think that this Thing will make it easier for people on the spectrum to understand some of the things that are confusing to them, such as why they got suspended. This activity may work on regular children from grades K-4.
Lesson Plan and Activity
Prepare the materials as listed below. This is intended to be done primarily by the special ed teacher or the child's "observer" (Person who follows the child around to supervise him/her while at school), along with the child.
Get the child's account of the incident, with events in the order that they happened in, and get the full story as well (historical context, child's observations, and any related incidents), along with any bystanders that may give a helpful, unbiased account. As people on the spectrum tend to be more honest than neurotypical children, their accounts should be relatively accurate. Make sure you have gotten everything that has happened, not just snippets. If the child has a tendency to give inaccurate accounts, be sure to ask for other witnesses, though the people directly involved in the incident should be avoided as they may try to get the child in trouble unless the incident was only an accident. Teachers, recess monitors, and similar "oversight" staff should be avoided as well.
For each action in the incident the child describes, discuss how many blocks it should be worth. More severe actions correspond to more bocks. The blocks go into the container of the person who committed the act.
Describe to the child why the outcomes are the way that they are and try to come up with strategies to do better in future situations.
As many containers as the given situation calls for, in any of the sizes or styles to suit your preference, that have been labeled, preferably with removable labels, with the named of everyone involved in the given situation
A substantial amount of counters, either the ones included with this Thing or any of your own. Items such as math counters, Connect 4 chips, or coins (for older students, the value of the coin can correspond to their value (U.S. Nickle - 5; U.S. Penny - 1, etc.)) will do.
The containers for each individual person represented should be labeled with the said person's name using Velcro, tape, or magnets.
The Book That Contains a Description of the Activity
MLA8: Attwood, Tony. The complete guide to Asperger's syndrome. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015.
If you have any legal concerns or advice, please comment on them. I'm not familiar with licensing and copyright policies.
The Book's Description
The Scales of Justice activity
I developed the ‘Scales of Justice’ activity to help a child who tends to make immature,
egocentric or incorrect attributions of the degree of responsibility in situations of
conflict, which can include teasing and bullying, between the child and others. Typical
children with a developmental level of under nine years tend to attribute the degree of
responsibility for an action in terms of who started it, which can appear to justify almost
any retaliation, and fail to make an accurate judgement of the severity of their own
response and the degree of consequences for themselves and others in making that
response. At this stage of cognitive development, conflict resolution can be ‘an eye for an
eye’ with the infliction of at least equal, if not more, discomfort.When an adult administers
‘justice’, the response of the child can be that it is not fair, according to his or her
perception of responsibility, conflict resolution and retribution.
The ‘Scales of Justice’ is an interactive, educational strategy using visual reasoning
to help the child understand the degree of importance – the ‘weight’ – given to particular acts and why, ‘on balance’, the ‘weight’ of evidence is used to determine the
degree of responsibility and consequences. In English, we may use the comment ‘six of
one and half a dozen of the other’ when attributing responsibility for conflict, and this
was the comment on which I based this activity.
The first stage is to determine who was involved in a particular incident. Each
participant has his or her name on a separate piece of paper, and all the named pieces of
paper are placed on a table in front of the child. If there are only two participants in the
sequence of events, then it is possible to dispense with the names on pieces of paper and
actually use a set of scales. The adult has at least 20 wooden or plastic blocks in a container.
The number of blocks measures the degree of importance that we attribute to a
particular act. A relatively minor infringement of the codes of behaviour may be
‘judged’ as worth one or two blocks while actions that are major transgressions of the
code that perhaps could or did result in serious harm or damage would be represented
by many more blocks.
The child is asked to describe the sequence of events, from his or her perspective. As
the story progresses,when a participant in the sequence of events makes a decision to do
or say something that breaks the codes of conduct, the child is asked to determine what
he or she thinks the words or actions (or lack of actions) are ‘worth’ in terms of the
number of blocks. The child may need some guidance with regard to why the number of
blocks that he or she attributes to the act may need to be adjusted. This can include
information on the effect of the act on a person’s feelings, the degree of potential
physical injury and cost of repairing damaged items. When the number of blocks is
determined, that number of blocks is placed on the name of the person who did the act.
This procedure continues during the recall of the events. Each participant will acquire a
number of blocks and, at the end of the description of events, the number of blocks for
each participant is calculated by the child.
This procedure is designed to enable the child to see the relative importance of what
he or she and others did that justified the consequences for all those involved. Perhaps
one of the most effective ways of describing the procedure is to provide a summary of
how the Scales of Justice activity was used when debriefing a child with Asperger’s
syndrome who had a strong feeling of injustice for being suspended from school.
There were three participants in the incident: Eric, a child with Asperger’s
syndrome, who was 11 years old but whose level of conflict resolution and empathy was
[at] least two years behind his chronological age; another child, Steven; and a teacher who
was a temporary replacement for the usual class teacher.
Steven started the conflict by calling Eric a ‘w***er’ (an obscene expression in Australia).
I asked Eric how many blocks that comment was worth and he replied, and we
agreed on, a weight of two blocks for Steven. I asked Eric what he did next and he
replied that he ignored him. My judgement was that that was the wise thing to do, so no
blocks for Eric. I asked him if the teacher (who had overheard the comment about Eric)
reprimanded Steven and Eric replied ‘No’ so we agreed that the teacher’s lack of intervention was worthy of one block. Then Steven called Eric a ‘f***ing w***er’ and we agreed that that was worth four blocks. I asked Eric what the teacher did and he replied that the teacher did not hear Steven’s comment, so no blocks for the teacher; but I asked Eric if he told the teacher what Steven had said and he replied ‘No’ so I suggested that Eric should have one block for not reporting the next level of provocation. I then asked Eric what he did when he heard the description of himself and he replied that he said the same words to Steven, so he had four blocks placed on his name.
I asked what happened next. Eric described how Steven came up to his desk and
scribbled over Eric’s work that he had been doing in class. We agreed that this act was
worth two blocks. At this stage, Steven’s piece of paper had eight blocks, Eric’s paper five
and the teacher’s one. After the scribbling on his work (which was not seen by the
teacher), I asked Eric if he reported the incident, and he replied ‘No,’ so he had another
block. I asked what he did next and he described how he hit Steven in the face with his
fist as retribution and to make him stop tormenting him.
‘Was there lots of blood?’
‘Where on his face did you hit him?’
I then explained the degree of potential injury from hitting someone in the face,
how painful it would be and the school rules on violence. We agreed that his response
was valued at 12 blocks. He could see that although Steven started it, and committed
more provocative acts than Eric, by hitting Steven in the face, Eric eventually had 18
blocks, Steven eight, and the teacher one. This was used to explain and to encourage him
to accept why he was suspended from school and Steven was not suspended.